Trading Sarcasm for the Good Stuff
It’s a good thing I wasn’t a comedian at the time or my agent would have been furious when I decided to turn my back on sarcasm for two months as an experiment. I can imagine his hands wringing, mouth grimacing, and the berating as he pretended to remain calm. All the while him calculating how this would affect my act. But that’s the thing, I didn’t want an act anymore.
Never did I imagine, at the end of two months, I wouldn’t want to pick sarcasm back up again. (Too bad for my imaginary agent and comedic career.)
I also had no idea I was about to be trading my beloved sarcasm for the good stuff.
“What’s the good stuff?”, you might ask. Let’s just say, it was a lot of things I was starving for at the time and some of which I wasn’t even aware I was needing.
The Good Stuff, here’s a short list:
• more abundantly open, honest, intimate, kind, and loving conversations, thus, relationships
• a less critical heart towards myself and others
• a heightened awareness of what I am thinking and feeling in the heat of the moment
On the brink of my 2-month experiment, I had a hunch my use of sarcasm was probably like a raven stealing soft bedding where it mattered most: in the in-between of relationship. As I examined my relational holes, I started to realize, I am responsible for creating the safe place around me where the intimacy of knowing and being known—well—can flourish.
My new goal was (and continues to be) to create a safe place around me where people are loved, appreciated, and even genuinely celebrated. Add with this the extra challenge of feathering the in-between whether the same is reciprocated or not. This would be a challenge.
At the beginning of my two-month testing ground, I wasn’t sure where to begin but I began anyway. My first step was to catch sarcasm on my tongue. Instead of letting that raven fly, I would hold it there, like I had eaten its cousin the canary in quietness.
I would let the conversation go on around me as I considered these questions:
1. What had just prompted my wanting to use sarcasm?
2. What was I trying to communicate underneath the sarcasm?
Let’s just say, the findings weren’t too pretty.
This may not be the case for everyone who uses sarcasm, and I am the first to say, I love watching a good comedian! But, as I started to analyze my own use of it, I began to see it had a dirty underbelly. Personally, I was mostly using sarcasm as a smoke screen for what I really wanted to say.
Embarrassingly, I was most often wanting to communicate one of two things:
1. “I think you’re an idiot” but I’m not brave enough to come out and say it.
2. “I disagree with you” but I’m scared of conflict so I’m going to cloak it with this indirect communication.
Neither was authentic, honest, or loving.
My beloved sarcasm was suddenly on the ropes and, to my surprise, so was my newly discovered critical spirit and lack of bravery. As I mediated on Ephesians 4:15, “speak the truth in love”, I understood God and I had a few things to work on.
I began listening to my own self-talk and learned I was deeply critical of, not only those around me, but, my own self. As God worked on softening my heart, He challenged my impossible standards I couldn’t keep as He also reassured me that His love was an unearned gift of grace. I didn’t have to perform to gain love. I started praying and looking for ways to apply more grace and gentleness to both myself and others.
As I started accepting others and myself more, I gradually began see the people-of-value underneath the topic of conversation or conflict in opinion that would bubble up. I learned I can choose to love and value the person even while we disagreed over a topic. It seems so elementary, but none-the-less, an important lesson. The topic is the surface entertainment but our value as humans is deep, unique, unchanging, and highly valuable.
Respect, love, dignity, kindness, patience, upfront honesty; these all sound like good, soft, bedding to be adding to the in-between of relationships.
When the two months was over, I had made such good ground personally and inter-personally I didn’t want to pick sarcasm back up again! Surprisingly, I was enjoying myself and others MORE without the sting and extra laughs sarcasm brought. I knew sarcasm was like an old, beloved friend, you’d always have good memories with but needed to leave behind.
The In-Between in Relationship
I did not come up with the concept of the in-between in relationship. I found this in a book called Receiving Love by Hendrix and Hunt. They take a fascinating look at how we can change relationship when we take personal responsibility for what we bring to the table of the relationship, the space they call the in-between.
When we personally take responsibility for what we bring into a relationship, we suddenly have power to can change the relationship. We cannot change or control the other person, but we can control ourselves and what we bring. We can choose to bring the best of ourselves as an offering to the in-between: love, affection, patience, gentleness, self-control, gratitude, and graciousness. We can do this, despite the other person’s contribution, when we rest in God’s love for us.
This can be a challenge, one I’ve only been imperfectly successful in by going back to God again-and-again when I am feeling low and empty. He is faithful to fill me up with love, ample for me and some to give away for others, without the expectation to receive attached to my giving. At the same time He is softening my heart to be able to receive the love He is showing me through others’ hands, hearts, and words while also establishing in me a properly aligned backbone girded and strengthened by His wisdom on healthier boundaries.
I am reminded that God loved us by showing great sacrifice even while we were still jerks.