Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Stone coffins at St. Peter's, Wolferton, Norfolk, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Proverbs 14:6 (KJV:)

A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not; but knowledge is easy to him that understandeth.

It's not often I choose a passage to blog about in King James language, but this one is applicable, because it's the only translation that uses "scorn" for the Hebrew word used for "scorn" in this passage, Luwts.

It's not much of a stretch to realize that one of the ways many of us scorn is by being sarcastic.

Hmmmm. Sarcasm is a hard topic for me.

One of the lessons I learned about "fighting back" in an alcoholic household, where I was not bigger or stronger than a bullying alcoholic family member was that I was smart enough to totally cut someone to ribbons with sarcasm in such a way that they were "too dumb to get it."

I had seen a picture on Facebook a few days ago where some people waited until their friend passed out in a drunken stupor at a party, and then they drew all over this person with Sharpies.

That is what I realized my sarcasm was, in the crudest sense of the word. Growing up, it was my way of taking a Sharpie and drawing on the alcoholic while they were passed out.

Over time, it became one of the ways of dealing with anyone I disapproved of, or feared. It was much easier to verbally cut someone to shreds surgically, with words. Now, what's interesting is the word "sarcasm" comes from the Greek word "sarcazo" (from σαρκασμός)--which literally means to tear flesh. Which, truthfully, is what we do with sarcasm--we cut them--and the end result is we have found a way to scorn someone. When we scorn, we make someone less than fully human. To use Baptismal Covenant language, we are failing to see their dignity.

What I've come to realize is that really, sarcasm is based in fear.

When we're good at sarcasm, it creates the illusion that we are cool and suave and in control of a situation--that we have power--that we are the "insider" in the situation and the "outsider" is to be scorned. It strokes our ego because people laugh and think you're clever.

But truthfully, a person who relies on sarcasm is really a scared two-bit hoodlum backed in a dark corner, stabbing outward with a switchblade at everyone who comes near, without first even bothering to check if the person wants to harm or hug them.

I'm coming to a place in my life where I'm discovering that my reliance on sarcasm needs to be buried. It needs to be put in a stone coffin and have the lid dragged over it. Now, that doesn't mean I need to stop being comedic. I think the part of me that sees comedy is one of my best parts. But the sarcasm needs to die. It comes from a dark place that tears down the body of Christ rather than builds it up.

I was reminded of something very important from one of our youngest parishioners, on Sunday, about the antidote for that.

Little Lilly was baptized in our parish, and even at her baptism she showed a great proclivity to be social. I remember when she was paraded around the aisles as the "newest member of our congregation" she tried to wiggle loose and get in my arms. Now she's a charming, bright, (occasionally noisy, but that's ok) toddler. She's at the age where it's fun to "mug" at her. Sunday I was spending more time than I ought to sticking my head below the pew in front of me and peeking out with one eyeball while she was looking backwards two pews ahead of me.

After church, she literally leaped into my arms. But I could tell she didn't really want to spend time with just me. Her little feet were pushing outward the entire time. She wanted to go see everyone.

So I sort of wandered from group to group chatting with each other after church, and let her pick her next "target." She'd pick out who she wanted and leap into their arms (ready or not!) I was having a great time being Lilly's "chauffeur" for this game. She'd leap into someone else's arms, leap back to me, push her little legs on my side to get me to move to the next group, and leap at her next choice.

Now, I'm sure Lily has done this game with other people, and I am also sure she's bumped her head a couple times or ended up on the floor when she has leaped on someone and they were not quite ready to receive her. But it hasn't seemed to stop her.

I thought to myself, "What would my world be like if I could have the ability again to leap and love, like Lily does? To just leap at the people I care about and love them with no preconceived expectations for their ability to interpret it?" I think Lily somehow innately knows that someone will catch her and that someone will hold her, even though I doubt that happens every time.

It's a good thought to consider the possibility that God holds onto us as we leap. Yeah, we might fall a little. But not as hard as we would when we leap only with the power of self behind us. Self-determination is not a bad thing, but it's not the only thing. But the vulnerability we need to have to do God's work in the world requires us, I believe, to put our sarcasm to rest in a sarcophagus.


Great post. But I was wondering, could we make an exception for trolls?

Actually, Doc, sarcasm can be a great way to handle anger. I'm most familiar with it in "Acid-tongued Drag Queens". It's part of the reality of the lives of a certain generation of"out" gay men and lesbian which is a manifestation of the anger/fear of being Queer and having paid an enormous cost for that - before it became fashionable in some circles.

When employed with a touch of irony, it sometimes comes very close to wit - which takes a certain intellectual capacity - as does satire. It can be a really important coping mechanism for the one who delivers and receives sarcasm.

Having said that, sarcasm can also very quickly cross the line and become a form of cruelty and bullying. So, forgive me when I say that I'm not willing to bury my sarcasm but I am committed to reining it in a bit. I'm also much more careful with whom I share my sarcasm/wit/satire/iron. If someone isn't going to "get" that this is how I'm handling my anger/fear with humor, it's not going to be funny.

Hope that makes some sense.

I totally get it. There's a light sarcasm that is more of a stress reliever rather than a defense. Satire is a cousin, but satire is generally aimed at injustice and goes into the ridiculous and parody. The kind I am talking about is the kind that comes out when what you want to do is truly hurt or scorn the other person.

"Sarcasm is the defense of the weak" John Knowles in A Separate Peace. That observation is I think the only reason the otherwise not particularly good novel got such attention. It resonated with the life experience of a lot of English teachers.

Of course that observation also explains the trolls for whom MP is concerned.


It does indeed, doesn't it, Jim?

MP, I believe the trolls are the purveyors of sarcasm; you are more into satire as your anti-troll defense of choice. As I mentioned to Elizabeth, satire appears to be a cousin, but not the actual critter itself. I doubt you want to harm the trolls, just make them go away!



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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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