Harmful sarcasm has no place in society. Simply defined, it’s when you say (or gesture) one thing but mean the opposite of what you say. There can be appropriate uses of sarcasm, but never to hurt someone, including yourself. Here are 3 types.
- Situational sarcasm. Maybe something didn’t go the way you expected and you say to the people around you, “well that went well.” You mean it didn’t go well but might get a chuckle from others at the irony of your statement. You’re not hurting anyone’s feelings so this is OK.
- Self-deprecating. These are where we make others laugh at our own expense. Sometimes this is appropriately funny but sometimes it isn’t. If your comment reaffirms a negative thought you have about yourself, that’s harmful and should be avoided. Using the previous example, you might remark out loud, “I’m a genius.” Depending on your tone of voice, that might be funny and acceptable if you don’t harbor negative thoughts about your intelligence, but if you get down on yourself a lot, this type of self-sarcasm hurts you by reinforcing a false belief that you’re not smart.
- Toward others. This needs eliminated from all our personal and social media conversations. For example, saying to someone, “you’re a genius” when you mean the opposite after they had something negative happen is very destructive. We think we’re being funny because some people are laughing at the comments, but those we are directing the comments at are hurt inside even if they laugh it off. When the sarcastic person walks away, the friends of the injured person tend to regard that person as a bully or jerk. In movies the bully character often gets humbled in the end, but in real life that almost never happens.
Inappropriate sarcasm goes straight to the heart. It damages self-worth causing a loss of confidence and love of life. It is very destructive.
Discuss: Imagine you’ve just turned on the blender and didn’t have the lid on properly and your mixture shot out of the top all over the kitchen. Try saying “I’m a genius” toward yourself, using sarcasm both in a positive (playful) and negative (hurtful) way. See how it feels, and learn to stop hurting yourself, and others.
How do you want to be remembered by people? As the person who stood up for others, or quick witted sarcastic person who was rude to others? We all know that answer. It just might take some effort to become that person.
- If you have to say “just kidding” after a comment, you were inappropriate.
- Being sarcastic toward someone means you haven’t learned to love them. When you love others, you don’t hurt them.
Discuss: Develop a safe program in your home to call others out on sarcasm to help stop inappropriate cutting remarks. Maybe it’s as simple as when you hear it, calmly say “sarcasm” and the person knows they need to apologize right then.
Watch for part 2 on how to handle sarcasm.
(Featured image by khosrork @ 123rf.com)