23 Aug Shields of Sarcasm
“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” —Proverbs 13:3
The word of God speaks clearly about the power of the tongue to wound or heal. Throughout my life I have used the written word as a source of healing and power while many times unwittingly allowing the spoken word to be a source of destruction. When I was a young girl and throughout my teenage years, the written word was my friend. I learned to become adept at stringing words together to elicit strong feelings or ideas. In high school when most others groaned at the teacher’s 500-word essay assignment, I silently rejoiced! Putting my thoughts and ideas on paper nearly always meant a good grade. Writing also became a way I could privately process and sometimes express confusing feelings to others. I wrote short stories, notes, and poems. Writing was an area of confidence for me, both in school and personally.
“Throughout my life I have used the written word as a source of healing and power while many times unwittingly allowing the spoken word to be a source of destruction.”
As comfortable as I have been with the written word, I have uncovered some real deficiencies in my spoken word, in speaking life, in using my words to lift up not tear down. Over the past decade, these teachings have convicted me to pay closer attention to my words. My first glimpse of this significant area of sin in my life came at my high school reunion several years ago.
Ronnie Young was a kind, happy guy that I enjoyed talking to. Because of our last names, we were in the same home room from seventh grade all the way through high school, so I got to know him pretty well. I remember laughing with him and enjoying our conversations. I loved to make people laugh, or at least, I thought that’s what I was doing. At the reunion we were talking in a group of several of our classmates and Ronnie said to (about) me, “Amy was always so quick with a comeback, that I was afraid to say anything. I didn’t want to look stupid.” We all laughed and several shook their heads in agreement. But for me, that moment froze in time. Very unintentionally, he metaphorically reached across that group of people, shook me by the shoulders and said “Amy’s sarcasm hurt and embarrassed me at a time I felt vulnerable. Because of her strong, cutting words, our friendship was limited. I wasn’t free to be myself.” WOW! That’s what I heard. That’s what I needed to hear.
“Very unintentionally, he metaphorically reached across that group of people, shook me by the shoulders and said ‘Amy’s sarcasm hurt and embarrassed me at a time I felt vulnerable . . .'”
Using that catalytic moment, the Holy Spirit has continued to lift the veil on the destructive nature of words spoken that don’t bring life. He has revealed to me that for much of my life, sarcasm, quick wit, and cutting words have been a tool I have used to keep people at arm’s length. A very real form of self-protection. The blessing I was given in the form of words and a quick mind had become a source of death not life. It wasn’t something I intentionally did. On the contrary, I thought my wit and sarcasm were funny, maybe even endearing. It’s interesting how in our sinful human nature we can become blind to our own sin, even going so far as to convince ourselves it’s a strength. My words can have the power to lift up, encourage, and strengthen.
“He has revealed to me that for much of my life, sarcasm, quick wit, and cutting words have been a tool I have used to keep people at arm’s length. A very real form of self-protection.”
But our tendency to self-protect, whether it be through words, shyness, avoidance, or insincere kindness, is at the core, autonomy. It is still believing that we are in control, that we have the ability to protect ourselves and even that God may not be able to or does not love us enough to ultimately save us from the dying nature of this world.
I encourage you this week to listen and watch. Be fully aware of the words coming from your mouth—both the uplifting and the discouraging. Then, watch the impact it has on the receiver of those words. As you become more aware of your natural responses and conversations that trigger the unhealthy use of words, you can learn to pause before you respond. Give yourself a second to remember the impact an encouraging word can have on the receiver, but don’t underestimate the impact God is having on your very soul as you bend your heart and your ear towards the work He wants to accomplish through your words.
“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” —Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)
I choose to use my words to encourage and lift up others for His name sake. Will you choose along with me?
Originally from Ohio, the warmth of South Carolina is now happily called home. She and her husband Mike have 2 married children, 3 grandchildren and are enjoying life with their soon to be teenager, Sydney. She loves adventure and has more interests and ideas then the time or energy to explore them! Amy attends the Greer campus.