Waging War on our Poison Tongues

I once had an acquaintance state an observation they’d made about me that seemed out of the ordinary (they could take their pick, I suppose – “ordinary” is NOT something I’m often called). They said, You are almost completely without sarcasm, and that’s refreshing.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

I wonder if they were speaking of the same person. These days, my wife probably gets the brunt of it – the regular cracks & cut-ups – poor attempts at being witty – all for the hope of getting a chuckle. How cheap.

Think about what you like most about people – think of those you could spend almost all of your time with: what sets them apart?

Yeah – a sense of humor can push someone to the top of the “fun list”, for a time, but constant kidding grows old fast, and a good laugh only goes so far towards deepening intimacy. In fact, I often feel more guarded around those who are ‘the life of the party’, because someone will be the ‘butt’ of their next joke, and it may very well be me. Some are so constantly ‘on-stage’ – ‘performing’, so to say – that they are absolutely ‘un-safe’ to be around, emotionally: it’s almost impossible to discern when they’re serious or joking, and there is an almost constant residual fear that you are somehow being ‘pranked’.

Honestly, when I think about those who have impacted me most – even though I have a few very funny friends – it is those friends who are the most trustworthy, reliable, and sincere – who’s words I never second guess. Granted, few of them are stand-up comedians, but they are the sort of friend for whom it is indeed true that “the wounds of a friend can be trusted”, as you’ll never be the ‘butt’ of a joke intended to make them look good in everyone else’s eyes.

Looking back over the past few years, the growth of my sarcastic edge pains me, as I’ve seen how badly sarcasm has wounded some close to me. Here’s the Biblical truth we need to constantly remind ourselves of: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.’” (i.e. – mean what you say) and “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (i.e. – what we speak has the power to build up and harm others).

Especially as pastors/leaders – people who are “on stage”, & in the public eye, representing the Lord, & leading people to better see Him – humorous careless words can do far more damage than we think. For some, given our position of authority, how we speak reflects almost directly upon who God is. Though Jesus wasn’t without a sense of humor, consider your “fun” – could you hear those words rolling off Jesus’ tongue? Since Jesus says my “no” should mean “no”, & my “yes”, “yes”, then I think I’d rather be “safe” than “funny” any day, especially if my being funny is at the expense of someone else’s honor.

It felt good to be a person that can be trusted – whom others can confide it – who can be relied upon to do what he/she says. It doesn’t feel nearly as good to be thought of as ‘funny’ or ‘entertaining’.

Please regularly pray that – as a leader – I will continue to strive towards ‘innocence’ in how and what I speak, and I will pray the same for you.

So, that was my on-going confessional. Be honest; where could you grow as a leader?

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  1. I think humor at someone else’s expense is almost always a bad idea. Passive aggressive humor and especially sarcasm are like acid on a relationship! My Mom used to tell me a cautionary quote, “Many a truth is spoken in jest.”
    However, observational humor, self-deprecating humor and occasionally an unexpected Knock-Knock joke from a clever kid are all examples of humor that is welcomed and needed. Humor can be a window into someone’s intellect and point of view and perhaps their soul!
    P.S. Please imagine me in a chicken suit as you read this.

  2. *Imagining chicken suit

    Thanks for the smile, Jim! Great clarification! I need to practice more of that kind of humor! I think that’s why I’ve been trying to memorize good (funny, & clean) jokes whenever I hear one. I enjoy making people smile, but even I grow tired of my own sarcasm, when it slithers out. Thanks for chiming in!

  3. This is great, my friend. Amen!

  4. Thank you for your sincere confession and observation. Sarcasm at another’s expense is never savory and yet it comes naturally especially toward those closest to us. A counselor once told me it is rooted in suppressed anger. And I think there could be truth there. I’m all too familiar with the wounding effects of being the butt of another’s joke and also guilty of allowing my tongue to betray me.

    Familiarity breeds contempt. We must be on gaurd not to allow our frustrations or insecurities cause us to dishonor another.

    I have always appreciated a sincere heart.


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