The Fine Line between Humor and Sarcasm

Benjamin Franklin, founding father, printer, and inventor, realized at a young age that a virtuous life lead to powerful goodwill to the general populace. His pragmatic approach to life caused Franklin to list 12 virtues, which he intended to improve daily. A friend however, noted that Franklin needed to add one more virtue: Humility. So, the list was increased to 13 virtues, including the humble intent to, “imitate Jesus and Socrates.” Franklin, admitting his own pride issue, saw the irony of the situation and allegedly predicted he would probably be proud of himself for being humble.

Humor is a natural remedy for stressing over the details. Humor can also be entertaining, however, my sister taught me at a young age that entertaining humor is not to be distorted into sarcasm. Sister Denise was playing with her Barbie Dolls in our bedroom. I sat down, picked up a doll and joined in because it looked like she was having fun and I didn’t want to be bored. After a few minutes, I started joking around with the dolls. The joking went from humor to sarcasm in about 55 seconds. My sister stopped playing and looked at me. I looked at her. No words were spoken. But, we made a silent contract that I was not to play Barbie Dolls. Sarcasm is not funny, or fun. A bored person is boring. So, I got up and went to find something better for me, to do. Make mudballs.

Humor is juxtaposed with the virtues of appreciation. Sarcasm is a lack of imagination.

In the Christian Science Sunday School I attended, I was taught that God was not a superhuman personality but infinite Mind, manifesting infinite ideas of goodness and wellbeing. This abundance of ideas is accessible to open-mindedness and provides a constructive imagination that keeps humanity on track with happy relationships and progress. Life is full of hard work, fun, and smiles. But, when we become habitually sarcastic with others or our self, life becomes drudgery.

It’s a tough call, humor or sarcasm, and requires some thought. Sometimes, it feels like life’s problems are so monumentally colossal that the only answer is to give up or be flippant. But, too many times throughout history, simple answers come even if without glory and fame.

We can read in Ecclesiastes 9, “There was a little city with a few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in [the city] a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.”

When we are up against the great rulers of frustration or pride, the humble spirit can find the wisdom to deliver us from their snares. We can use sincerity, silence, justice, or humor to push the imagination out of repetitive lack and into a plethora of ideas that are fun to live with.

P.S. Please join me on Beliefnet.com at Everyday Spirituality

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One thought on “The Fine Line between Humor and Sarcasm

  1. holly February 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm Reply

    Hi Cheryl! I love this. I googled “healing sarcasm” and this was the first that came up. I had a few instances lately with others being sarcastic and then they say “I was just kidding!”

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