I am taking a big risk this weekend.
I will publish my first post that makes use of sarcasm as a literary tool. It’s risky because readers will have to go through the entire post before they see my overt declaration of sarcasm.
The risk is that people will think I actually believe what I’ve written.
I might be misunderstood.
Worse still I may offend some people and I may even lose some followers/fans.
So why take the risk? I want to be like Jesus.
Some Christian leaders call the use of sarcasm sinful and that it has no place in the kingdom.
Others hold the opinion that Jesus was a satirist. I pitch my tent in the latter camp.
All the stories Jesus told about camels, needle’s eyes and riches were His use of hyperbole and sarcasm. His story about a sliver of wood and a beam in a man’s eye is serious sarcasm (Luke 6:41 – 42). His exaggerated analogy drove home the concept of picking on little faults in others and missing the ginormous ones in our own lives.
Jesus showed his sarcastic side early in his ministry when he called Philip to be one of his disciples. Philip then tells his friend Nathanael that he has found the person spoken about in the law and the prophets.
Nathanael’s sarcastic reply is the following: “And Nathanael said to him, ’Can anything good come out of Nazareth (where Jesus grew up)? ’” John 1:46
Philip gets his friend to travel with him to see Jesus. When Jesus sees Nathanael, he calls him a true Israelite in whom no deceit exists (verse 47). Jesus, of course, knew what Nathanael said about him (verse 48). The sarcasm comes from the fact that Jacob’s name literally means someone who is full of guile or who deceives. Jesus is stating something like, “Isn’t that unusual. We have finally found a descendant of Jacob who is without guile!”
Research suggests that people using sarcasm are using parts of their brains reserved for creative and abstract thinking.
So sass is good for you.
The Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal published a study in November 2015 that shows sarcasm requires the speaker and listeners to stretch their imaginations.
Francesca Gino, one of the study’s authors from Harvard says, “To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.”
1. Give the reader some early indication you may not be totally serious. But don’t be overly obvious from the beginning.
2. Hyperbolic language likely indicates sarcasm if the adjective used seems to conflict with the situation. For example, someone posts a Facebook status saying, “Got a D on my chemistry test and I feel like a genius!”
3. Indicate you are using sarcasm by using a word that directly suggests sarcasm in context, such as “totally”.
4. A careful use of emphasis in your sarcastic writing can go a long way. Consider using italics, bolded words or an occasional all caps word to visually demonstrate your emphasis. For example:
I love when people are rude.
I love when people are rude.
5. The use of capitals in sarcastic writing can serve you well. This is to indicate a tone that may be used to indicate sarcasm when speaking. For example, say someone is disagreeing with another writer’s point. The writer may respond with something like, “Okay, THAT makes sense.”
Pick your spots carefully and bring on the sass!
Robert (Bob) W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.
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