I’ve noticed lately that sarcasm has become pervasive in our society. No matter what a person’s background, situation, level of affluence, race, creed or any other defining characteristic, almost everyone expresses some level of sarcasm. Usually, it’s cloaked in humor. Sometimes it’s combined with self-depracation as a way to humble ourselves. Often it gives us a way to connect with people about the “harsh realities” of a certain subject (like parenting, relationships, or marriage).What’s bothersome about sarcasm though, is that it gives us a publicly acceptable way to zero in on the worst qualities of something (like parenting, relationships, or marriage). Sarcasm gives our pessimism an outlet. Sarcasm never celebrates; it always bemoans. Too much of it is depressing.
Sarcasm is a noun meaning, “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.” It’s synonyms are “derision, mockery, ridicule, scorn, sneering, and scoffing.” (Notice that none of these things are good in human interactions.) It originates from the Greek words sarkasmos and sarkazein meaning “tear flesh” or “gnash the teeth, speak bitterly.”
Be aware of how often sarcasm crops up around you. Are there certain people in your life who are constantly sarcastic? How do you feel in their presence? Are there phrases you habitually use that display sarcasm? Here are some common ones:
With all due respect…
Good luck with that.
That’s so funny. Not.
How do you feel when you use these phrases? What reaction do they prompt in the person with whom you’re talking?
Alternatively, notice people around you who are rarely sarcastic, who use other modes of humor, other ways to demonstrate humility or to connect with you. How do you feel in their presence? How do others react to them?
Sarcasm can be funny, it can give us a way to be humble, it can be a point of connection. But don’t let it take over your thoughts, attitudes, words, and relationships. If you’re going to be sarcastic, make sure you don’t tear too much flesh (see above definition). Use sarcasm sparingly. Expand your repertoire of ways to amuse yourself and others, to be unpretentious, to relate to others and yourself in a way that celebrates the good stuff in life. If someone you love is full of sarcasm, acknowledge their effort to be open with you and then gently shift them so they can zero in on other aspects of the topic you’re discussing (not just the negative ones). There is a land beyond sarcasm. Go there and be happy.