Humor with a Bite (and why I don't like it)

The other day I found myself reacting to a person on Facebook who was using sarcasm (masquerading as humor) to belittle a category of people. It triggered some intense, raw emotion.

The sarcasm was directed at certain Christians. (Everyone knows it's politically incorrect to mock groups of people ... except Christians, who are fair game.)

I didn't feel defensive personally because I would never be considered the kind of Christian she was taking aim at. Those kind of Christians make me angry too. And although the remark smacked of contempt for Christians in general, I thought it was unfair and insensitive primarily because the recent beheadings of Christians served up the opportunity (the sarcasm indicted Christians for only caring/reacting when other Christians are murdered). I don't know any Christians who are only outraged by the slaughter of another Christian.

I thought it was an awfully inappropriate moment to seize an opportunity for sarcasm, to throw a jab and make the point that some Christians are hypocrites. I think this is something we all know about humanity in general, including ourselves; that we are all hypocrites -- Christian and non-Christian.

But mostly, I didn't like the belittling, biting humor for a different reason; one I did not immediately identify.

Exercising wisdom would have meant ignoring her comments. But I wasn't guided by wisdom. I impulsively confronted what I deemed insensitive and offensive. But I did so from the gushing emotion of an opened wound, never stopping to consider that her biting sarcasm might also be the gushing emotion of an opened wound...
Just a different kind of gush.
I wish my first reaction would have been empathy for her.

I didn't feel better for responding. In fact, I felt like an idiot.

But I did learn something, even if it took a few days.

This morning, I was proofing a final edit of a chapter I contributed to a soon-to-be-released compilation book about surviving and overcoming abusive relationships. As I read through this condensed version of my 27-year-long journey with an abusive man, something dawned on me about this recent interaction with a stranger.


I think this is something I already knew, but so many years have passed that sometimes I fail to instantly connect the dots from some of my emotions back to their true source. And while focused on this chapter with the recent confrontation fresh in my mind, it dawned on me:

This is why I react so strongly to all belittling sarcasm: Because I spent so many years being the target of mean-spirited bullying, belittling, and character assassination.

I've been the recipient of too many piercing verbal stabs that were laced with laughter, but left me with internal bleeding.

I hate belittling on any level. And I have a fight or flight response. I either need to get away from it or I will confront it. And I realize I don't always know how to combine wisdom with confrontation. Sometimes I fail miserably.

Maybe a few people reading will relate to me. That's one of the main reasons I share.

I hope next time I encounter someone demonstrating a desire to mock other people in a condescending manner, I will exercise wisdom and/or continue scrolling. I can't promise myself that I will. But that is the goal.

On the other hand, there are times when it is absolutely appropriate to challenge condescending and belittling words no matter how clumsily you do it.

When it's possible to take a visible stand that might make a difference in someone's life, I will always speak. But this is not likely to happen on Facebook. And I need to learn that.

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