Heather Marshall on September 12th, 2008

I don’t know about you, but I HATE sarcasm.

Okay, okay, I know that there are times when it is funny, and even somewhat appropriate (like when my husband hikes his pants all the way up to his chest and runs around the house like that, and I say, “Oooh, that’s sexy!” …definite sarcasm there).  Most times, however, sarcasm does not have happy results, even if the receiver does not “seem” hurt, offended, or angry.

Picture this: Your husband comes home from work a little late, and you make a sarcastic comment on his timing as he walks through the door.  He flops on the couch, exhausted from work, as you finish making dinner. You observe him relaxing while you’re working hard to get dinner done and the table set. Insert sarcastic comment about how helpful he’s being.  After dinner, he helps clear the table.  Insert another sarcastic comment about how helpful he’s being, assuming he’s only helping because of your first comment.  How do you think your husband is feeling at this point?  Encouraged and uplifted?  Or discouraged and defeated?

Does this seem like your home? Your relationship with your husband?  You may think your comments are funny, and he may even laugh… but picture your sarcasm acting like a game of Jenga:  the longer it goes on, the wobblier your marriage will be, until it (or your husband) collapses.

Ready for another word picture?  Picture a sand castle being meticulously built on the beach next to the beautiful ocean.  You can build it high, sculpt it perfectly, and decorate it beautifully… but gradually, as the tide comes in, the water will eat away the foundation of your castle, and it will crumble and fall.  Your sarcasm acts like that water, eating away at your marriage until it destroys it.

Sarcasm is THAT dangerous.

Why? Because, all too often, truth is hidden in sarcastic barbs.  If, deep down (or not so deep down even!), you think your husband is a loser, the things you sarcastically say will show your true feelings.  Hurt by something your husband said to you?  Sarcasm is often the retaliation.  It seems “safer” than an all-out confrontation, but it is not!  It can cause a deep wound to your husband, and over time that wound can either harden his heart toward you, cause a rift in your marriage that is difficult to mend, or fester and infect him with bitterness toward you.

Sarcasm demeans your husband, shows the lack of respect you have for him, and is the opposite of a submissive and gracious wife!

Perhaps sarcasm is part of “who you are,” part of your “sense of humor.”  I’d like for you to evaluate why exactly you enjoy using sarcasm, and make sure that you are not hurting or demeaning others through your sarcasm.  I decided long ago that sarcasm was unbecoming of a Godly (or striving to be Godly) woman, and a sarcastic woman was NOT what I wanted to be.  I had to evaluate what I was saying, and how I was saying it. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself the next time you feel a sarcastic comment coming on:

  1. Who will benefit from me saying this?  Will it uplift and encourage anyone? Will it bring joy or laughter to someone else? (see #2 if this last answer is a “yes”)
  2. Will anyone be demeaned, offended, insulted, singled out, made to feel uncomfortable, or made fun of? Will the comment be at the expense of another person, even if they are not present in the room? (If yes, it’s not worth it to say it!!)
  3. What are my motives? Am I saying this to draw attention to myself, even if it’s to my own flaws? Am I trying to get someone to notice how much I’m doing, or how much they are NOT doing?
  4. What am I REALLY trying to say?  Am I trying to get my hurt feelings assuaged or noticed? Am I trying to get help in a particular area?
  5. How will the recipient of my sarcasm receive it?  Did you recently have a fight, and a sarcastic comment will be like throwing salt in an open wound? Has he had a bad day, and one negative comment from you will push him over the edge?
  6. IS IT NECESSARY? Sometimes, you won’t know the answer to the above questions.  You might think everything is fine, throw out a few zingers, and it could be the worst thing you’ve ever done.  You JUST DON’T ALWAYS KNOW.  Therefore…. if your sarcasm is not necessary, just don’t say it!! You might not be known as the funniest girl at the party, but at least you won’t leave a trail of hurt feelings behind you.
  7. IS IT CHRIST-LIKE?  Can you picture Jesus zinging one of His disciples with a sarcastic remark? Really think about WWJD - what would Jesus do? If you are striving to be a wife after God’s own heart, think about if sarcasm truly fits that mold.

Remember that one of our definitions of grace from my previous post, What Defines a Gracious Wife?, is a sense of propriety and consideration for others. That means being polite and considerate! Thinking of others’ feelings before you speak!  Want to be gracious? Tone down the sarcasm!

Don’t just take my word for it….  look at what the Bible has to say about our words!

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Your “harsh word” could be a thoughtless (or carefully aimed) sarcastic remark towards another person. Perhaps your husband, a friend, a co-worker?  Instead of a fight, a gentle answer could offer a conversation starter.

There are a lot of verses in the book of Ephesians that I could mention, but I’ll just pick a few out of chapter 4:

Ephesians 4:2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

It’s hard, but we are to be completely humble and gentle.  Sarcasm is the opposite of gentle, that is for sure! Often, too, it is our pride that brings our sarcasm out - to “save face” or feel better about ourselves, we use sarcasm as a prideful defense.  A Gracious Wife speaks with humility and gentleness to bring about peace and unity.

Ephesians 4:29 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.

Like we asked ourselves in the above questions, will my sarcasm uplift or encourage anyone?  God calls us to speak only words that will build up, not tear down; benefit, not hurt.

Perhaps you know that sarcasm is not the right weapon to use against your husband (or anyone else for that matter), but the habit is so deep you don’t know how to get out….  Well, our first plan of action should be to pray.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you overcome this habit.  Then, hit the Word!  In the Bible, God gives us a prescription to follow, and it can help control your tongue….

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Paul wrote these words in the context of trying to get two women to get along with each other (obviously the fight had to be pretty bad for him to have to address it in a letter to the church).  Not thinking nice thoughts? Sarcasm getting ready to spew out of your mouth?  Think about these things - anything that is excellent, anything that is worthy of praise.  Think about the positives, and don’t dwell on the negative things that you see in your relationship.

Shall we strive to knock sarcasm out of our lives?  Shall we strive to break that habit?  Let’s strive to be Gracious Wives, who lift up and encourage our husbands, not tear them down with our sarcasm.

You can do it! (With the Holy Spirit’s help of course!!)  Keep on Striving!

Heather :)

PS - Have you signed up for the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge?  It can also help you overcome your sarcasm because you’re not allowed to say negative things to or about your husband!

PPS - I’d love to hear your progress! If you are a part of the Encouragement Challenge, how is it going? Have you noticed any changes (in your marriage or your sarcasm)?  Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!




Related posts:

  1. The Gracious Wife versus The Angry Wife
  2. The Gracious Wife versus The Nagging Wife
  3. What Defines a Gracious Wife?
  4. Some Final Thoughts on Being a Gracious Wife
  5. Choose Your Words Wisely (Part 2)

17 Responses to “The Gracious Wife versus The Sarcastic Wife”

  1. I grew up in a family that loved each other, but used sarcasm quite liberally. You are correct in noting that it is a hard habit to break, but with the help of the Holy Spirit it is possible and well worth the effort.

    I am enjoying the 30 Day Challenge and so far not encountering any opposition. Rick is basking in my loving words and coming up with wonderful endearments of his own.

    God is smiling, He so loves marriage!

  2. Heather, you are speaking like a true Titus 2 woman. Keep it up!

  3. Hey Heather.

    I’m having a TERRIBLE few days with the encouragement thing!! I hate to blame my hormones but…you know (its 4 weeks since my last stressed-out reply!)!!!!! I’m unaffectionate, I have a short fuse, everything little thing my husband does or doesn’t do drives me mad and sarcasm… it’s a deep habit and it DOES hurt but is very difficult to control. I AM praying about it all though which helps me feel less hopeless. I AM hopeless but I’m seeking God’s face and His change so thats where I have my hope.

    What is it about your messages that makes you spot on with every detail!! Oh yeah, it’s God!!

  4. Rachel,

    I feel like Satan knows our weaknesses so much more than we do, and if he sees us trying to grow and change, THAT’s when he attacks with greater force. Jason and I have never had as many fights as that first week or so of the encouragement challenge! You’re doing the right thing, though… you’re seeking God’s face. He IS your hope! Don’t let Satan get you down… keep on striving, and you WILL see change! Love you girl!

  5. I can’t stand sarcasm! I only makes things worse and only “shrink” the other person. Thanks for talking about this one!

  6. how true that all is! i’ve just begun reading Love and Respect and my eyes are being opened as to just what a truly godly wife looks like! thanks for your words!

    and thank you for stopping by my blog. having a husband who is/was a worship pastor i have been involved in MANY church logo designs…it can be a stressful process. have fun!

    :)
    in His grip,
    lisa

  7. RIGHT ON!!!!!

    I am so glad you spoke up about this!!! The definition for “Sarcasm” is
    a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain. AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
    Life and death are in the power of the tongue! We want our men to lead but instead we as women deminish them down to, little defeated boys, instead of building them up as our strong protecter and handsome man! Most of the time we are the problem of why our men are not what we want them to be! Pr 14:1 -
    The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

    Pr 21:9 -
    It is better to live in a corner of a roof Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

    Pr 21:19 -
    It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman.

    We have to stop taking the wind out of there sails, if we want them to move the family forward in life!

    Ps 128:3 -
    Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine Within your house, Your children like olive plants Around your table.

    What kind of fruit are we offering to our husbands? Remeber, you are what you eat!! May he be nourished by your words of life. If you want him to be your desire, speak out loud in faith of who he is! Your words create, and soon enough he will start becoming what and who you desire him to be! It works! We are made in Gods image and everything he created was by his spoken word!!!

    Be blessed and prosper in your marriage!! -Amy

  8. My wife has repeatedly accused me of not listening.
    Actually, it has come in the form of sarcasm. Nasty sarcasm.
    Fact is- I am a great listener. But sometimes I don’t hear what she is saying. Sometimes she initiates a conversation from a distant room in the house. I generally walk over to hear her but it isn’t always possible.

    Here’s another:

    When I’m driving I sometimes miss something in the conversation
    if I have to focus on what another driver is doing ( they suddenly pull
    out in front of traffic, for instance ) Or maybe I have to look for a particular street name to make a turn. The other day I pulled into a
    parking lot. There where 3 cars coming toward me and 2 pulling out of parking spots. It happened within 10 feet of turning into the lot.
    I immediately turned into a vacated spot just 2 car lengths away.
    This all happened within 2 or 3 seconds. So I didn’t hear her telling me to park somewhere else much further away which she mistakenly but sincerely thought was closer to our destination.
    Problem: when I pulled into the spot she sarcastically said “that’s Ok.
    You don’t have to listen to me”
    Another incident occurred a few hours later.
    We had a serious argument.
    Later I suggested she replace the sarcasm in the future by asking me nicely whether I heard her. She agreed.
    The big problem is I felt disrespected by the sarcasm and other nasty
    remarks and 24 hours I’m still obsessing over the repeated use of sarcasm.

  9. awesome love the Jenga picture, it spoke volumes to me. I have some speech to clean up and a marriage to continue to build up instead of tear down.

    Stay blessed

  10. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a bit sarcastic at times. It can lighten moods, make people laugh AND be FUN! What if your husband happens to have a sarcastic side to his personality as well and truly appreciates the banter? There is NOT always truth or the intent to hurt behind sarcasm. Sarcasm is appreciated by most who love to LAUGH, appreciate humor and don’t enjoy being overly serious and/or politically correct most of the time (that in itself can be exhausting, and quite honestly, lacking in sincerity much of the time).
    Ultra-sensitive types may have problems with sarcasm due to their own lack of sense of self and poor self esteem. A confident person can appreciate humor and know that it is not always meant as a personal attack.

    I LOVE sarcasm. AND I love being a kind, gentle, loving, complimentary and supportive wife as well. There are MANY aspects to people and to their varied personalities. To ask one to omit one aspect of themselves because you are personally opposed to it would make them a phony. I certainly would not want to be a phony towards my husband– would that benefit him or our marriage? I think not.

    What I DON’T appreciate is when people attempt to categorize: “all sarcastic people are”….”all sarcasm is negative”…..sterotyping and categorizing people is ignorant and dangerous– history has taught us that.

    There are so many facets of people, of marriage, of relationships. We are who we are. We should appreciate who we are, not force change that can’t possibly come naturally. That’s unhealthy and insincere in the WORST way.

  11. Evangeline,

    Thanks so much for your comment, I appreciate your candor. I do want to point out, though, that I made allowances at the beginning of this article for that “light” sarcasm, related to banter and silly things. This article is NOT about that kind of sarcasm though! This article was written to address the barbed type of sarcasm, the sarcasm that is born out of a bitter seed hidden deep within the heart.

    I do agree with you that there are many facets of people, and we SHOULD appreciate our differences… but we should also be open to grow and change if there are areas in our lives that need changing! For many of us, we are naturally bent toward a sarcastic sense of humor, but that is not always beneficial or healthy (you can see others’ testimonies to that in the above comments).

    Changing a sarcastic sense of humor certainly won’t come naturally… but that’s why we strive in the power of the Holy Spirit. Through Him, all things are possible.

    Thanks again for your comments!

    Keep on Striving,

    Heather

  12. Uhg…I struggle with this every day. I am very sarcastic, light hearted, and not very serious. I am confident and don’t let much bother me. My boyfriend however, is sensitive, serious, and self consceince. He thinks the way I say things are mean, which is how every fight starts. I don’t know what to do, because I usually am not even aware that what I said cut him down. It is tearing us apart, and I don’t know what to do. Being without him scares me, but being with someone for the rest of my life, who can’t laugh at the small stuff scares me also…he wonders how my parents have such a great relationship (his do not), and I tell him humor, and not sweating the small stuff, but it doesn’t seem to stick with him. Help :( I am sad, and frustrated.

  13. Hi, I was the receiver of this and bitterness from what had happened in her past. It was very rough. Its hard to understand the power of little digs but over and over.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Gracious Wife versus The Angry Wife
  2. Choose Your Words Wisely (Part 2)
  3. Stop, Drop, & Roll!
  4. I agree with your point of view

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