I have recently realized that there is no 'normal' or 'to be desired' childhood. Instead, God gives every child a wildly different life for a purpose, and we are the ones who choose to make it our downfall or our platform. It is what we choose to do with our childhood as an adult that makes it 'good' or 'bad.'
In every family, though, there are a few things that drive deep rifts - some are flashing neon signs, and some are entirely invisible.
In our family, sarcasm is one of these things.
Sarcasm is defined by Princeton as "witty language used to convey insults or scorn." Another definition is, "a form of irony that attacks a person or belief through harsh and bitter remarks that often mean the opposite of what they say."
Note the difference between sarcasm, and humor: "a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter."
I despise sarcasm. It bites, and it wears at a child's spirit. The young men and women who have been on the receiving end of sarcasm have visible scars. I can see it. To me, sarcasm is like pulling a rug out from a toddlers feet and laughing as he falls.
Are you familiar with the term, 'cognitive dissonance?' It is a psychological term that describes the mental and emotional tension a person experiences when they simultaneously accept two contradictory truths or emotions. We don't need scientists and psychologists to tell us that inconsistency is harmful to children, but they've proved it anyway.
Children by nature love to make their parents happy. They love to make them laugh. They love to be the focus of positive attention. Children thrive in their parents' pleasure. But introduce physical or emotional pain at the same time, and it wrecks a child's heart. Whether or not you as a parent think the pain is valid is entirely irrelevant. Pain is pain, and your child is hardwired a certain way by the God of the Universe, and it is your job to love that child through it.
I Corinthians 13:6 says, 'love always protects.' When you love someone, you will do your best to protect their heart. Always. The definition of protect does not include poking fun with the intention of manning up your son or daughter.
Ephesians 4:29 says, "do not let any unhealthy talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, so that it may benefit those who listen." I am no counselor, pastor, or teacher - but in my opinion, the phrase 'according to their needs' is intensely overlooked. If your child is soft-hearted, sensitive, and acutely tuned to your words, know that is it a gift given to him by the same Being that made you. I don't care if that doesn't fit into your definition of masculinity. God designed him that way for a purpose you do not yet understand. And you have been directed to say nothing to that little one unless it laces his heart with love - according to his needs.
Dear men, it doesn't matter how your father did or didn't raise you. And dear women, you have special access to your son's heart. Together, I beg you, build your son into a man by way of love, encouragement, confidence, pride, and validation.
Dear men, your daughter's heart is softer than you know. Dear women, tell your daughters they are beautiful and valuable. We need to learn to accept approval from not just men. Together, I beg you, to build your daughter into a woman by way of love, encouragement, confidence, pride, and validation.
My heart breaks when my 19 year old brother winces in pain from my dad's poorly chosen jokes, and I can feel an invisible coating of numbness slip over my heart when my dad laughs at my expense. There are terrible truths that my sister has accepted about herself, driven into her heart like knives and imprinted into her mind by sarcasm.
I tell you this to ask you to think twice about what you say - three times, if necessary. Separate sarcasm from humor in your mind, and go read my post, Your Jokes Suck: Why I Won't Date You. Because I know that if you aren't a parent yet, you'll one day catch yourself treating your children the way you treat your friends and your significant other, right now.
Protect people with your words.
And when they are hurt by your words, track down some humble pie, and listen to their hearts. They will give you the clues that will enable you to build them up - not tear them down - according to their needs.
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PS. Are you a parent who is guilty as charged? You now have the opportunity to teach your child an invaluable lesson - acknowledging that you aren't perfect. Tell us that you are sorry, and you'll try to do better. If you can say this to your child's face, you just gave your child the tools to build healthy relationships with his or her future friends, co-workers, spouse, and children. We desperately need you to teach us how to apologize humbly. Please do.
PPS. Do you have scars from sarcasm? “This is what the LORD says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast, for whom no one cares.’" Jeremiah 30. Also, “When she cries out to me, I will hear her, for I am compassionate.” Exodus 22:27
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