“So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” Romans 14:19 NLT
Everything that comes to us in life comes through some type of relationship. That means if we fail to build godly relationships at home and in the church, we cut off the conduit God uses to bring blessings into our lives and ministries. As pastors, if we cut off this relationship conduit, we also cut off the path God uses to grow our church.
One of the biggest threats to healthy relationships is also one of the least recognized. Disguised as good humor, sarcasm is a serious threat to any relationship. If you have heard the words, “I’m just kidding,” or “Can’t you take a joke?” then you know exactly what I am talking about, because you have had your own feelings hurt by the words of someone else. If you have found yourself saying these same phrases to others, beware; you may be hurting important relationships in your life through sarcasm.
Kidding, teasing and joking are all examples of what many people call light humor, but when it comes at the expense of someone’s feelings, it quickly turns to sarcasm. Sarcasm (defined as irony, mockery and cynicism), when masked in humor, is a subtle, but damaging form of communication because it fails to “build up” your target. While I agree there is nothing wrong with a good sense of humor, it is difficult to identify where the line divides humor from sarcasm that hurts feelings because it is different for each individual. Even if you think you know where the line is with a specific person, that line can change from day to day based on unknown issues in that person’s life. As leaders, you cannot afford to cross the line of sarcasm.
“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV
There is another reason that teasing and sarcasm is a dangerous habit for leaders. One of the most effective tools of humorists is comparison. When you compare something mundane with something “earth-shattering,” you can create a funny story or punch line, but unfortunately it is often at the expense of a person, or class of people. Paul cautioned believers to avoid comparison, calling it unwise, because the foundation of comparison is judgment. When we tease someone, there is usually a shred of truth buried in our communication. As a leader, if there is something about a person that we perceive as a flaw or weakness in their life, we might try to use humor as a way of communicating our opinion in a soft way. After all, we do not want to hurt their feelings. Again, the Apostle Paul instructed us to communicate the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Instead of teasing a person about something you wish they would change, instead simply say, “I think it would be better if you…” You are less likely to hurt a person’s feelings by speaking the truth in love, verses using a joke at his or her expense.
Search your own relationships and determine if you have been using sarcasm. If so, then ask God to help you get rid of the habit by speaking the truth in love. Your relationships will flourish, and your church will grow.