I have always been sarcastic. I have a quick mind and there is always a smartass comment in the chamber just waiting to be fired. The shots are usually funny as I have honed my timing skills. No doubt my sense of humor has made me popular among friends. I have made people laugh for years, but I am sure I have also hurt many feelings along the way. The funny thing is that although it is obvious that sarcasm hurts, I always chalked it up to the victim of my humor “not being able to take a joke”. I never realized that my sarcasm was intended to knock others down to make myself look better. It is a weapon that I found early in my to make sure that others didn’t question my worth. I have used it to make sure that I remain popular with my peers, even though deep inside I have probably always questioned if I am worthy of love and attention (I’m currently investigating this part of my personality). Even after writing the virtues of building yourself and NOT tearing others down I didn’t see the sarcastic attitude I had was a wrecking ball. I just thought of myself as funny. I see things differently now thanks to three people.
The first person that I want to thank is a man at work. I’ll call him Jim. Jim is an inspector where I work. He is very dry and sarcastic. The first part I took to him to be inspected, on my first day, Jim checked my part and brought it back to me. He said in a smartass tone, “Well we know there will be at least one good part in the box.” I shot back “Yea, I knew it was good before I took it in to you, so I guess you checked it right then.” We have had a great relationship ever since then. Jim is always making some dry, sarcastic, or smartass comment to somebody. He is always making someone laugh, usually at the expense of another. I have known since we’ve met that he is trying to be funny, but others are really hurt by his comments. I have been told by at least three people that he has hurt their feelings by his sarcasm. I tried to assure them that he was trying to be funny. I wonder if others need to be pacified after I “make jokes”? Upon returning to work after the new year, Jim told us that his resolution was to be more sincere and tactful. Of course he said it in a sarcastic manner, but I have noticed that he has changed at least a little. I think he may actually have this resolution. Several times I have expected a barb to be thrown at someone, and Jim has kept his finger off the trigger. I think that he is really trying to be more tactful, even though he acts like it is a joke. I wish him well.
The second person that has opened my eyes, is a woman I’ll call Donna. She is the owner’s daughter at my place of employment. Donna has a reputation as mean, and cruel. When I first met her, she made a crude, sarcastic comment about me wearing a University of Michigan shirt to work in Ohio. I could tell she was just testing me and trying to establish that she was superior, so I told her that I bleed maize and blue and if it was a problem she could fire me. She told me that she liked the fact that I stood up for what I like and that in fact her father was a Michigan alum. I got her “act” right away. She was acting tough to demand respect. Just as she did when she came in to the shop and raised hell because we were starting to close up ten minutes early, just before we were off for Christmas. She was yelling and giving attitude to anyone within earshot. Well, not everyone. Those of us whom had stood up to her were not targets, only those easily dominated. Very sarcastic comments about working hard and appreciating management were shouted at the top of her lungs. It was actually pathetic. She is going to be in charge after her dad retires. He is a soft spoken, appreciative man that goes beyond for his employees. Everyone loves and respects him. She wants respect from us badly and tries to demand it. The problem is that she doesn’t feel worthy of it, she probably feels insecure. Hopefully she can find her way and earn our respect…and to earn respect from herself.
The third person I’d like to acknowledge is Stephen Stosny, Ph.D. He is the founder of CompassionPower and has written many articles and books about anger, emotion abuse and relationships. In the last couple of weeks I have read one of his books (Love Without Hurt), visited his blog often and actually spoke to him on the phone. He has written that sarcasm is one of the early warning signs of emotional abuse…”Sometimes it’s innocently insensitive, with no intention to hurt or offend. More often it is hostile and meant to devalue. The purpose is to undermine a perspective the sarcastic person doesn’t agree with or to shake someone’s confidence, just for a temporary ego gain or some strategic advantage in a negotiation. Sarcastic people tend to be heavy into impression management, always trying to sound smart or witty. Their tone always has at least a subtle put-down in it.” I have learned many things from Dr. Stosny, but the negative power of sarcasm really stuck in my head.
When you consider the definition of sarcasm, a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain, it is plain to see that it is not clever or funny. It is a weapon that the weak use to seem strong. I am guilty of using this weapon for countless years. I am sure that my sarcasm is one of the reasons that my marriage is in shambles. It is vital for my growth as a person that I cast the ugly mask of sarcasm aside and let Brian shine through.