The times we make fun of or joke about the things which are probably more important than we might first think often end up being the times we do more harm than good. If we go through life making light of everything we encounter - as though life had to be filled with jokes and humor at all times - we will miss out on so much of what may have come if we avoided the sarcasm. Sarcasm actually "demotes" or causes something to have a lesser "degree" of importance. It is good to laugh and make light when times are stressful and you just need to unwind. It is another to make light of what another may be feeling very deeply. It is still another to cover over the depth of your anxiety, guilt, or regrets with sarcasm directed toward yourself. Wisdom calls for us to be men and women of integrity - having fun with life - but not making light of what life entails.
Make fun of wisdom, and you will never find it. But if you have understanding, knowledge comes easily. Stay away from fools, or you won’t learn a thing. Wise people have enough sense to find their way, but stupid fools get lost. Fools don’t care if they are wrong, but God is pleased when people do right. (Proverbs 14:5-9 CEV)
The difference between "unwinding" over a matter which may have caused you anxiety, guilt, or even regrets and burying it under sarcasm is this idea of understanding. Understanding denotes some type of personal connection with truth. It also denotes some type of personal "interpretation" of the issue at hand. Since this is the case, understanding is closely related to one's perspective at the moment. If one's perspective is different from another's, as in the case of one being in the thick of the matter and the other being only an onlooker, it is easy to make "slight" of what the one in the middle of it is seeing, feeling, and experiencing. It is often much better to allow an individual the "space" or "comfort zone" to unwind about what it is they are experiencing than it is to jump right in with some "light humor" which we hope will diffuse some of their anxiety or grief. In so doing, we are acknowledging the other person's "perspective" as important and worthy of being understood.
Wisdom warrants our attention to the details - reading where another is "at". The moments when stress is high, issues are mounting, and internal pressures are at their most volatile is not usually the best time to make light of the issues at hand. Instead, wisdom warrants us allowing another to share their perspective openly and honestly, then coming alongside to help them navigate the difficulties of the situation. The closer you are to another individual, the easier it is to "read" them. You begin to pick up on the subtle signs of the stress which is mounting internally and you know when something is "not right". These are the times when wisdom warrants "understanding" the other person's perspective and then finding the resources to help the other make it through. At the other end of the problem, we can often look back and bring a little levity into the situation. In the heat of the moment, the levity may elude us. Sarcasm only adds fuel to the already hot embers burning inside the one who is the middle of their muddle! Maybe this is why scripture points to us being sensitive to the words we speak, when we speak, and to whom it is we speak.
We have often studied about the "quickness" of a fool - he acts impetuously, responds without thinking, and really is oblivious to the needs or "sensitivities" of another. Wisdom is learned when we come into greater places of understanding, both personally and in relationship with others. The fool cannot be patient enough to stand by while understanding is being "unfolded" - he needs to jump in and this is where he gets into more hot water than he might actually have wanted to be in! Someone once told me there is almost always an element of truth in sarcasm. It is a taunt, cutting remark, or a little bit of irony which tends to mask some underlying message. Wisdom dictates us "checking our words" for the underlying message before we speak them, if we speak them at all. I know this because I struggle with keeping sarcasm in check in my own life! It is easy to make light, thinking I am adding a little bit of humor to the moment, but it can be taken totally the wrong way by those who don't know I intended to just relieve the "pressure" of the moment instead of making light of it!
So, in general, sarcasm tends to either put another or yourself in a bad light. Therefore, it is important to weigh how and where we allow humor into our challenging moments. I know I have good friends who laugh along with me when times get a little hairy and deadlines are crushing us by their weight. We take time to laugh a little, because it diffuses the tension and helps us to get back at the tasks at hand. What those good friends DON'T do is make light of the actual pressure I am feeling. They know it is real to me and they come alongside to support me in those times of pressure. This is what wisdom dictates - this is what comes of understanding another's viewpoint or perspective. Just sayin!