Sarcasm Can Leave Emotional Scars

When my friend walked by my desk looking really sharp in her stylish, black suit, I remarked how great she looked.  She said she had just come out of a senior management meeting. “Is that your senior management suit?” I asked. We laughed and she said something funny to me about my casual dress.

When my friend walked by my desk looking really sharp in her stylish, black suit, I remarked how great she looked.  She said she had just come out of a senior management meeting. "Is that your senior management suit?" I asked. We laughed and she said something funny to me about my casual dress. We were being a little sarcastic...

We were being a little sarcastic and it was funny. It lightened up our day because we're friends and wouldn't do anything to hurt each other. But there are times when sarcasm really hurts. Even the word itself can leave a bad taste in your mouth when you say it, but especially when it is used to hurt others. Webster's dictionary defines sarcasm as “a sharp utterance designed to cut or give pain.”

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The Greek form of this word, “sarkasmos”, means “to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer.” Wow, all that in one small word. Our daughter and youngest son used to play the game of sarcasm often to get at each other when they were younger. Jay, the youngest, would say, “Mom, we finished the kitchen”, and Christy, the oldest would retort, “We, my foot!” This would agitate Jay and he would  sneer back, “Oh, sure, little Miss Perfect did it all by herself.” And on and on it would go until I would have to call a halt. You get the picture. Ow, just imagine this scene in a work setting or in the intimacy of marriage. It could be very destructive and painful. Sarcasm is like a bee sting. When the bee stings, the poison causes immediate pain and inflammation. Once the pain is there, it is hard to take back; even when you pull the stinger out or say, “I was just kidding!”

A schoolteacher friend said her philosophy is, “If it came out of your mouth, you probably had it in your heart.” Even though I would call a halt to our children's bickering, and make them apologize to each other, one sarcastic remark would start an avalanche of bad feelings between the two of them that lasted for days. Sometimes, in marriage, sarcasm is the beginning of an emotional separation between two people who love each other. The one who starts the sarcasm is usually in control and the other either fights back or withdraws.

Our youngest son avoided his brother and sister when they were being sarcastic. He wasn't good at it. He couldn't think of a quick, smart remark to say back, and often walked away feeling hurt. I understood how he felt, because when I lived in a college dorm, I spent a lot of evenings in the library by myself, avoiding the sarcastic games my friends like to play with each other. When I tried to tell them some of their remarks were hurtful, they would laugh. Needless to say, after a while, I made new friends. “That doesn't mean everything in life should be serious and friends can't joke and tease each other”, my schoolteacher friend told me. “It just means maybe that's why we have two ears and one mouth. We need to do more listening and less talking.”

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Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

Deana Landers has had many roles in life — Pastor’s Wife , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer and Motivational Speaker ... more