I’ll be honest right now, there’s no direct tie between the title and this post. I just rather like that title, and the song is stuck in my head. (Probably yours now too, which is fine with me.)
In the last week or two, I have been struggling and challenged by my mind and body, facing sickness and just a general difficulty with finding energy to go throughout the day, let alone writing or posting or doing entertaining things. That’s the main and really only reason why I haven’t posted a lot lately. (In addition to working on my Ulysses Bucket List, and editing my novel — over 2/3rds done!)
The other reason I haven’t posted a lot lately is because I want to always make sure I’m posting something that matters. Something that has a voice and is a benefit to those who hear it. Something that is challenging or is even a bit scary to think about. Something that is more than just another person piling on with the bajillions of other blogs who do this blog game a whole lot better than me. I want to make sure I’m adding my voice, not just playing WordPress Karaoke.
Let’s talk a moment about humor.
If you are a human, you like to laugh. Heck, many other species laugh too! Laughing is the best medicine, it’s good for the soul, it’s easy, it’s not bound by language or background or ethnicity or location or dialect or education or age or anything. Everyone comes out of the womb equipped to laugh.
Laughter is the result of a bunch of neato things happening in our brains, chemicals and neurons firing and so forth, that results in an almost uncontrollable response (like a cough or sneeze or hiccup) to indicate we find it amusing, and too amusing to just smile.
The things we find funny are much more nuanced. Many people find light-hearted things to be the best medicine while others prefer more vulgar or inappropriate jokes and scenarios to tickle their funny bones. There are a decent chunk of humanity who prefer (or at least enjoy) jokes at the expense of genders, races, ages, or so on. There are those who like black comedy (a type of humor that makes light of something normally taboo) and those who find things funny others don’t (for a variety of reasons). It’s integral to who we are, and one of the best things about being alive.
That ‘ecard’ is amusing, but really underlines the main idea I want to communicate here.
One of the most pervasive types of humor (and not even just now, but for a long time), is sarcasm. People like dry humor, self-mocking humor, and puns (which are the best), but just about everyone enjoys sarcasm. Probably because we have plenty of reasons as a society to be displeased, and sarcasm is a natural product of that perception.
There are some terrific comedians who will have you rolling in tears with sarcasm mixed in. Louie CK and Jim Gaffigan are great examples, obviously entirely different levels of ‘appropriateness’ but definitely very sarcastic comedians.
And sarcasm makes it’s way into talk shows (Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel and probably another Jimmy), as well as News broadcasts, TV shows (obviously) and even music. It’s a humor that is easy to understand, easy to execute, and easy to enjoy.
But like many other things easy in this life, it’s also easy to make it into a weapon, easy to let your intentions become something hurtful, and easy to not see how your words are just as important as your meaning.
Henry David Thoreau was a terrific poet and philosopher, and his words are very potent here. Just like how easily a text message or email can go awry (words without any audible inflection or pitch or tone) the exact opposite can be the same. Words can be spoken to mean one thing and be received to mean something completely different.
A statement about your affection for someone could easily be misinterpreted to be the exact opposite if the tone, pitch, inflection, or even context are not understood the same between the two people. A compliment may be spoken innocently but be received like a wound. A joke could be stated without ill intent but be devastating to someone who held a deeper meaning in the topic or chosen phrases.
Words matter. Tone matters. And meaning matters. It’s important to consider that in all circumstances when you’re talking, especially when you’re making jokes, as you never know the story behind everything you’re saying. It’s easy to step on the toes of others when you don’t know how close they are to your topic.
Well, Mr. Lion, you might be correct. Worrying is not the best way to get through life. It’s often the hardest way.
I’ve heard a million great quotes about worry. That it’s like rocking in a chair and trying to go somewhere. That it’s like praying for what you don’t want to happen. That it’s completely pointless, and that if animals don’t do it, neither should you.
But the problem is, we’re not animals. Life isn’t as simple as instinct and survival. We have to navigate social situations, familial interactions, and real life complications, and it’s a lot more than just ignoring people.
I’m not advocating for a Fisher Price society where no one ever says anything but socially agreed-upon neutered statements that make no inference or statement or have no meaning beyond the most basic vanilla ideas out there. That’s ridiculous and a complete antithesis to the idea of being humans.
But I am advocating for people learning to control their tongues. People need to look in the mirror and understand that they have a power within them to impact others, to impact lives, to impact narratives, to impact how a person might completely go one path or another depending on how you respond to or talk to them.
Sarcasm is an incredibly potent way of impacting people. It’s an acidic kind of humor that can be hilarious if used right and carefully and in the right scenarios. But if used wrong or used too often or used without thought, it can be a divisive, insulting, or even demeaning type of humor that does not communicate what you meant, and might even communicate something completely opposite of your intentions.
I am totally with you on that Mr. Lion.
Everything we say, especially on any kind of platform (social media, public speaking, parties, groups of friends, even one-on-one interactions) matters. It matters because people remember a surprising amount of things, and usually remember the things you would never expect them to.
They remember being belittled, being disrespected, being demeaned, and being insulted. They remember if you treated them like they are worth less than you, if you acted like their thoughts or opinions or beliefs were of less importance than yours, and definitely if they felt like your opinion of them was worse than their opinion of themselves. Words have an incredible power to lift a person to the sky or bury them deep in the ground, all depending on how you choose to use them.
You can be free-wheeling and just say whatever comes to your mind, off-the-cuff as it were, and it might work out for awhile. It might be something that people just attribute to you. That you are a ‘word vomit’ kind of individual who doesn’t filter or control their mouth in any respect. It might even be seen as a ‘good’ thing for awhile.
But it’s pretty likely to also be seen as a bad thing. Like a person who doesn’t have tact, doesn’t think about what they are saying, and doesn’t care for context. Quite simply, a person who is unwilling to try to control their tongue, regardless of the situation, is a person who is selfish. They believe their words (and their right to say them) outweigh any potential negatives that could come from speaking them (whether situational, personal, or just in general).
Sarcasm is one of those shining examples of this. You have every right to make as many sarcastic jokes as you want. It’s your right as a human with a voice that only you have. But those jokes can just as easily alienate people from you, and from the message your other words might be trying to share. Those jokes, usually at the expensive someone or something else, usually will push people away or further into their beliefs or opinions (potentially about you) without any benefit at all. It’s not because they don’t have their place, but rather that they simply don’t always have a place in your conversation.
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,
8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
– James 3-7:10 ESV
If you are a person who has friends or siblings or parents or kids, you fully understand what James is saying. You fully understand how easy it is to observe someone praising or blessing or complimenting one person and then cursing or insulting or mocking someone else. Out of the same mouth.
It would be a bit like if our refrigerator also functioned as our garbage. Putting both the items we want to keep and those we don’t in the same location, which doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have things you want to keep (or nice things/complimenting things/blessing you want to say to some) and things you don’t (things that are constructive criticisms), it’s more about how they should be kept separate and involve care.
The reason I focused so much on sarcasm is that it’s a very real-world common example of a situation we observe a million times a day on social media, in real life, and even inwardly. We’ll sarcastically respond to situations without even thinking, read about other people sarcastically responding to situations without blinking (and usually with a like), and observe people sarcastically responding to situations while often agreeing.
But sarcasm at it’s core is about a few things:
- Mockery of a topic/idea/thing/person/place
- Indication that those who do not sarcastically state what you are sarcastically stating are ridiculous/insane/stupid
- An inherent statement that your opinion on said sarcastic subject is more valuable and important than those who disagree with you
It’s funny though, perhaps, because if you took out ‘sarcasm’ in many sentences and replaced it with ‘mockery’, it might make people bristle a bit. If you were to say “I didn’t mean that seriously, I meant it to indicate that I felt that anyone who truly feels that way is ridiculous/insane/stupid and my opinion is more valuable than theirs.” would likely yield the same.
The point to all of this is that sarcasm is like any other mode of communication. It has a place, a time, and is appropriate sometimes while inappropriate others. I don’t think you should stop being sarcastic, but I do think, like any other time you are speaking, you should consider how you are speaking and to whom you are speaking, before opening your mouth. (Or typing out that status.)
It’s harder to control our words than any other organ of our body. It’s harder to fully see the devastation we can wreak too. If your intent is to be the kindest person ever, it will always start with your mouth. If your intent is to be the most knowledgeable person ever, it will always start with your mouth. If your intent is to be the most Christ-like person ever, it will always start with your mouth. Hopefully you get the pattern.
And hopefully, especially if your goal is to be Christ-like, you get the importance. Words can turn people to Jesus just as easily as they can cause people to run. Words can convey your heart and mind and true self in ways you might not have even though — which is why you should think. Think every time. Especially about those statuses you post and tweets you tweet and so on. Think about how others might read it. Think about how Christ might be reflected in your words. Think about if you are serving the Kingdom of God with your statements or if you are inhibiting it.
Make people laugh and make terrific commentary on society and keep being you, but keep in mind, whenever you are sarcastic: someone is the butt of the joke. And the person you are mocking is also a child of God, just as deserving of His love as you are.
So control that tongue. Now, if you’re blue, and you don’t know where to go to, why don’t you go where fashion sits …