2003 was not a good driving year for yours truly. I received three speeding tickets in nine months. My family will tell you it was four, but that last one didn’t count because I went to the judge and groveled and got him to dismiss it. So technically it was only three.
That third ticket, however, was a wake-up call. I was driving late at night on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, 62 mph in a 55 mph zone (they allow you five over – I added two more), when my daughters’ screamed, “Dad, you did it again!” Sure enough. Lights everywhere. A frown and a finger in my rear-view mirror motioned for me to pull over. It was a scene I had become quite familiar with.
As the officer walked to my window I had my license and registration waiting. “Sir, I clocked you going 77 mph in a construction zone,” he said glibly. “No way,” I shot back, “62 mph max. Maybe 65 mph.” One of his eyebrows lifted above the other. “Sir, give me your license and registration.” I was livid. Speed trap, I thought to myself.
Then I did it.
I did something no thinking person should ever do in my position, unless you’re the President or Tony Soprano or someone.
I said something sarcastic.
As I handed him my information I said, “Oh well, I’m glad there’s someone out tonight protecting the citizens of Pennsylvania from treacherous criminals driving their kids to see their grandparents.”
His look and the $135 fine told me he didn’t get the joke.
Strangely, the rest of the drive I found myself thinking very little about the ticket and a great deal about how sarcastic I had become over the years.
Sarcasm is a strange habit.
The word sarcasm originally comes from the combination of two Greek words: “to cut” and “flesh.” When someone is sarcastic, they cut others with their words. Sometimes it’s done humorously. Sometimes it’s done caustically. However it’s done, the ultimate result is we’ve sliced someone with our tongue.
One thing we learn about God in the Bible is that He’s pretty big on healthy relationships– initiating them, maintaining them, and healing them.
That’s why it’s not surprising then that God addresses this problem of sarcasm head on. In Ephesians 4:29, God warns us,
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
That’s pretty clear. Use words that build people up. Keep tabs on your tongue. Do whatever it takes. Join Sarcasm Anonymous. Go into verbal recovery. Your relationships are at stake.
In the 3rd & 4th century a strange thing happened. Many Christians became dissatisfied with the church of their day and did something bold—they moved to the desert. They thought if they could get away from people, especially people of questionable character, they could live more dedicated lives to God. These people became the forerunners of our monks and nuns today.
To be honest, some of these characters were pretty nutty, like people you would see in the movie Deliverance. But many of these guys and gals were normal, and learned a great deal about how to live an authentic spiritual life. These people later became known as The Desert Fathers, and their stories and their wise sayings were recorded for posterity.
Listen to one wise person named Macarius as he begs people to enter Sarcasm Anonymous,
“Abba Macarius the Great said to the brothers in Scete after service in church: ‘Flee, my brothers.’ And one of the brothers said to him: ‘Father, where have we to flee beyond this desert?’ And he put his finger upon his lips and said: ‘I tell you, this you must flee.’”(Western Asceticism, Chap. I, Sec. IV, Saying 27)
Not bad advice.
Today you are going to speak anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 words, depending on your personality.
Keep track of how many of those words build people up, and how many of those words tear people down.
The health of your relationships is depending upon it.
How do you think sarcasm affects your life?
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