Monday, January 26, 2009

words can never hurt me.....

Let me say up front that if you are a sarcastic person, I don't mean to offend you by what I write here. I write about sarcasm today because I don't quite understand why people have to be sarcastic. I've been bothered by this characteristic lately so I did some research on the subject. Let's start with the definition:

sar·casm (sär'kāz'əm):
1. A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
2. A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.

"According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "sarcasm" derives from ancient Greek for "to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly." Its first definition is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt." Although sarcasts may just intend to be funny, their words can also be very hurtful to the intended target."

I guess that's why I don't understand why people use sarcasm. I, personally, would never dream of trying to hurt someone else through the words I use. So in that way, sarcasm is so far from my way of talking or writing.

I've heard sarcastic people who say that they don't intend on hurting their target - it's just who they are. Do they not realize that even though it's not their intention to hurt, their word do just that. Are they blind to this or do they just not care that they actually do hurt people with their words? I read this online and found it useful in trying to understand:

"Though they may not be aware of it, sarcasm is their means of indirectly expressing aggression toward others and insecurity about themselves. Wrapping their thoughts in a joke shields them from the vulnerability that comes with directly putting one's opinions out there. "Sarcastic people protect themselves by only letting the world see a superficial part of who they are," says Steven Stosny, a Washington, D.C.-based therapist and anger specialist. "They're very into impression management."

Because humor and hostility often come mixed together, it can be difficult to pinpoint a wisecracker's primary intent. "Sometimes sarcasm is humor—purely a Don Rickles kind of joking—and sometimes it's just innocently insensitive," Stosny says. "But other times, it's devaluing." Everyone benefits from a wisecracker's comic relief, but if you are the target of regular swipes, it's best to assertively call the joker out. His hilariousness doesn't give him the right to belittle you." (source)

Don't get me wrong - I can take some sarcasm and even find the humor in it. I can be sarcastic myself, even though I try not to be. It's when a person constantly uses sarcasm that makes me want to turn away and not listen to a thing he or she has to say. I find it annoying and degrading. But maybe it's just me.


Susan said...

No, it is not just you.

I'd always hear the defination as "gnashing of flesh", too. I believe, just as you quoted, it is a very insecure person who uses scarcasm. In not valuing themselves they de-value others.

When confronted with this we truly need to pray for them and pray that God gives us grace to love the person, and hate the sin.

Heidi Jo said...

i guess i have always considered there to be a humorous view on of sarcasm. i use sarcasm probably too much, but never intentionally towards others. towards myself, towards general circumstances in life, toward everyday happenings that seem funnier if i don't take them so seriously.

maybe what i do is not true sarcasm, but isn't a statement such as: "Cleaning toilets is my favorite part of being a SAHM", sarcastic? and how is it any of the things mentioned in the definition?

barb said...

The online comments are insightful into why some people use sarcasm as their primary way of relating to others.

Sarcasm not only hurts, it stops real communication and is tiring. I find it difficult to be open and honest with a person who always has a sarcastic answer.

Who wants to be around a person who is always throwing little "darts" at you!!

Melissa said...

I admit to being sarcastic. Maybe it's something I need to look at and work on. I guess I hadn't really thought about it before...

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Interesting thoughts. Sarcasm can be very hurtful - and yes, I have dished it out at wrong times and have been the recepient as well.

Now, I am with Heidi Jo...I have found situations that I often toss sarcasm out, but I am acutally the "butt" of the joke. And I don't mind. Maybe it is still some sign of something? Because sarcasm, as in her example, is stil not a cheerful heart which I guess we are called to have...but I admit to being sarcastic in the way she has mentioned.

I guess some of my sarcasm at myself or events going on is just to make light of what it is. "Oh I just love when I burn the pot"...

Christine said...

I would agree that it is terrible when it strikes out at an individual and yet I don't think that I agree that all sarcasm is wrong. It can be used to make a person think when used in a general way and it can be used to make a person laugh when maybe they have been taking themselves too seriously.

It is always darkest before it before it turns absolutely pitch black. Paul Newman

History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. Abba Eban


Another great post!
I too agree, sarcasm can be used as a tool to hurt someone under the umbrella of wit. Too often we may hear "cant you take a joke", which put it back onto the receiver of the sarcastic comment.
The problem with blogging,txt, emails is that its so hard to express yourself without sometimes looking bad. I am sure we have all experienced misinterpretation over text messages.
I can appear to be sarcastic when it comes to the medical parts of my blog, though I'm also attempting wit which could be misconstrued. When I am sarcastic I attempt to highlight it.
I too don't like hurting someone.
My surgeon used alot of sarcasm with me, or just plain meanness. One day I threw one back at her and she snapped "you don't need to be sarcastic" well that was the pot calling the kettle black. Quite often that is the case though, The person who hands it out isnt capable of receiving it back.
Kind Regards Kirst

Momma Roar said...

I'm a sarcastic person, but like Heidi and Mary, I use myself as the butt of the jokes - or someone I know can take it (meaning, someone who I dish it out to and take it from...if that makes sense)

It is a hard line to draw, I think. But, this post was a good reminder to me to be more careful! Thank you!

And, I hope I've never left any sarcastic comments that were taken the wrong way - if so, I'm truly sorry! Anything I say is meant in fun! I think you know that about me!

Just Mom said...

Um ... no comment. :D

Jen - Queen of Poo said...

I agree. Sarcasm is definitely best in small doses.

Short Stop said...

This is one of the things I love most about what you write - you just cut through the crap and just say what you're thinking. I just really appreciate that about you.

I agree with what you found online - I think most sarcasm is rooted in insecurity. All of us have insecurities, and we express them in different ways - but, I just find a regular use of sarcasm to be generally unattractive and kind of pitiful.

I have, however, found that some people can be sarcastic - and be funny, not in any way intending to be hurtful to others. Maybe they're insecure, but still funny. Some people are sarcastic - and just downright mean - and then they chalk it up to "I'm just sarcastic." Ick.

Karen said...

I don't care much for sarcasm. I agree with what Barb said, that it often gets in the way of honest communication. If it's directed at oneself, I suppose it can be funny, but overused it can be self-deprecating. When directed at others, I have no use for it. It places the responsibility on the other person to be a good sport, even if they're the butt of a joke.

I, too, like the way you get right to the point!

Maxine said...

I don't like it either, and I hope I'm able to keep away from it when making a joke about something. I guess there often is a fine line. I think it's bad when you're using it to be aggressive towards someone, but I personally have had to take many a word said in jest about me, that some would take has sarcasm. Usually, I can take it--unless I'm in one of those moods where I'm feeling sorry for myself or touchy! At any rate, when being humorous, I guess we all could be more careful not to direct our comments at someone on a personal level that puts them down.

Lisa said...

I use sarcasm, but not directed at someone, unless you would count me.

I also tend to surround myself with sarcastic people. I am very sensitive, and easily hurt. These people are not the people who hurt me.