Why do we value sarcasm?

"Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.”Dorothy Parker


“I’ve given up my sarcasm habit!”

Billy and I were celebrating our anniversary at the beach, spending the day sea-kayaking. Our chatty guide, Brian, busted out with this statement for reasons which are still unclear to me.

It felt rude to just leave his declaration hanging in the air, so we asked why he had made this decision (successfully resisting the urge to sarcastically reply, “Well, THAT’S a good idea!”).

A long story followed about how Brian took pride in being quick with a subtle retort which was both funny and biting. When he went to live in Spain, he brought his conversational talents with him and practiced on the locals. However, he stopped when a new friend called him out on the behavior. The local said, “you Americans like sarcasm, but you should realize it’s just an excuse to be mean!”

This was Brian’s story. Why was I suddenly feeling convicted?

I wasn’t asking for this insight, but the thought was instantly seared in my brain as truth:

Sarcasm is mean.

I kinda like the passive-aggressive nature of sarcasm. I like the quick jab loosely covered by humor. I always felt sarcasm worked. And, if mean is what you’re going for, it probably does.

Just the other day, a friend was bragging about being “the most sarcastic person I know.”

All I heard was she was a champion at being mean.

Recently my son said something and I said, “oh fun!”; he asked me if I was being sarcastic. Though I was sincere in that moment, the fact that he questioned me showed me I likely use sarcasm more than I realize.

Perhaps I need to make some changes.

How about you?