There Is No Place for Sarcasm…Ever
The older I get, the more I realize how hurtful words can be. The old adage, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is about as far from the truth as saying you never really cared about the boy who broke up with you in 10th grade. Mean, hateful comments are emotionally abusive, and can negatively affect one’s future. Sarcastic, mean, and hateful comments are doubly abusive. I believe that there is absolutely no place where sarcasm is necessary or appropriate in communicating, whether it is with children, youth, or adults. Words do hurt, and sarcasm – both words and tone – can put a pit in your stomach that will remain for days, weeks, years, maybe forever. I can vouch for that because it has happened to me. I want sarcasm to stop.
Children take everything you say literally. The last thing a child should be subjected to is a sarcastic tone, look, phrase, or joke. Can you imagine how much it confuses a child who does not understand that sarcasm is supposedly funny or cool? Is it a rite of passage to experience the hurt of sarcasm and then learn how to stand up to it, respond to it, and deal with it? If so, this is a rite of passage that does not strengthen a child; rather it only serves to weaken a child’s self-esteem and create bitterness.
Young people, in that terrible transition between childhood and adulthood, are learning that life is not easy, nor is it painless. Life is hard, but the least it can be is direct and to the point. Not evasive, confusing, or misleading. Teenagers, unfortunately, learn that the best way to survive is through defensive, sarcastic responses, usually to equally sarcastic remarks. The recipient is unsure of how to interpret the remark, as well as how to react. In the process of being hurt or embarrassed, teens continue the hurting, often in a way that is cruel and demeaning. It is truly a vicious cycle.
Adults show their insecurities through their words, often in the form of biting sarcasm. A sarcastic individual is probably that person who has experienced the other side, the brunt of the attack. Habits are hard to break. Unfortunately, once that cycle of sarcasm starts, it is almost impossible to stop.
But the cycle can be stopped. Resolve today that you will remove sarcasm from your words, phrases, complete conversations. Make the decision that you will not make sarcastic remarks, nor will you respond (often the most difficult) with defensive sarcasm. Don’t risk hurting someone, a child who doesn’t understand, a young person who is insecure already, or an adult who will be compelled to think fast and respond with more sarcasm, possibly even more hurtful or confusing. Resolve to speak directly, clearly, and honestly. In fact, why would we ever want to speak otherwise?