King Solomon is famous for having been considered the wisest man of all time. He was the principal contributor to the biblical book of Proverbs, a collection of short pieces of advice that has been used across continents and generations since the sayings were first recorded. In one unequivocal verse, he says: “Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended”.
(Prov. 22:10 – NIV)

THE MOCKER

Who is the mocker? https://www.dictionary.com/browse/mocker defines mock as follows:

  • verb (used with object)
    • to attack or treat with ridicule, contempt, or derision.
      to ridicule by mimicry of action or speech; mimic derisively.
      to mimic, imitate, or counterfeit.
  • verb (used without object)
    • to use ridicule or derision; scoff; jeer (often followed by at).
  • noun
    • a contemptuous or derisive imitative action or speech; mockery or derision.
      something mocked or derided; an object of derision.

Why does mocking occur? It is usually the result of fear and defensiveness, an attempt to deflect responsibility/blame, a need to “win”.

SOME HISTORY

For me, the problem for many years was sarcasm. My parents sent me to a girls’ boarding school when I was a sophomore in high school. They had both gone to boarding schools after junior high, and they felt that the education would be superior and that I would not be as likely to be caught up in the sexuality that was sure to be ever-present in our local high school. I did enjoy the education, I admit. And I liked that I could just be a student rather than first and foremost a teen girl. But the dark side was that some of the girls were there because they had been “discipline problems” or even because their parents wanted to be free of children for lifestyle reasons. These girls were by no means the majority, but they were often very angry at life and sharp-tongued as they tried to make their way cut off from family and friends back home.

I didn’t understand all that at the time. I was excited to be able to drink coffee for the first time (so adult, in my eyes), to learn about new people and places with no boy pressure, and – yes – to learn new verbal skills. I was good with words, and it was fun to learn new ways to use them. Having grown up in a tight knit, loving family, I knew about puns, double entendres, jokes, and other usually harmless ways to use words. It would never have occurred to me to use words against someone else in a mean or cutting way. So I didn’t recognize sarcasm for what it was until the first time I went home and said something sarcastic. My mother was shocked and asked me where (and why) I had learned to start speaking in that way. Needless to say, for that reason and several others, I was taken out of the boarding school at the end of that first year.

I now had a skill, and it felt powerful. I don’t believe that I have ever been a mean person, but things happened during and after that year that put me on the defensive off and on for a long time. So I became skilled at very subtle sarcasm. It was meant to stop an argument, to stop what I felt was an attack. It seemed easier and more effective than a flat-out argument or name-calling. I would always have preferred a civil problem-solving conversation, but that sometimes simply didn’t seem possible.

Over time, the skill I had honed for self-defense began to slip into regular conversations, as “joking”. It seemed like a “cool” thing to be able to do, and the object of the jabs was supposed to laugh it off. I look back now and am desperately sad about having been so casual with my powerful words.

THE CHANGE

There isn’t a specific time and place when I decided to stop using sarcasm. It gradually slipped away as I began to understand the power of words in an eternal and cosmic sense: you can’t take them back, and it can take years to rebuild trust and security if words have taken a toll on a relationship. I think I learned the hard way, as words were often used against me by other wounded people.

Looking back, I can only see the pain caused by mocking, scorn, and sarcasm. The Orthodox Study Bible offers the following translation of the same verse (numbered as Prov. 22: 11):

Cast out a pestilent man from the assembly, And contention will go out with him, For whenever he sits in the assembly, he dishonors everyone.

Mockery is a pestilence, a deadly contagious disease that cause rot and chaos and ruin in the mocker and among those who associate with the mocker. This translation highlights how invasive and pervasive mockery (scorn, sarcasm, derision, scoffing) is when allowed into society and relationships.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH – STEPS TO WELLNESS

Your tongue is your greatest weapon. Use it with utmost caution, and use it for good. Here are a few suggestions to help you (and to remind myself, of course):

  • Above all, be kind. As with a gossiper, walk away from a mocker. Check yourself, too. I’ve been in countless situations when a group starts to pick on someone. It can feel uncomfortable not to join in, especially if the one receiving the attention seems to be laughing it off. Silence is always an option if you can’t walk away immediately. Guard you heart and your ears. Harsh as it may sound, it is better to find new friends that to expose your heart, mind, and spirit to mockers when you have the opportunity to leave.
  • Attack the problem, not the person. If you have a problem with someone, focus on the problem and try to find ways to invite the other person to partner with you to solve the problem. It may feel easier to “win” with snipes than with facts, but everyone loses.
  • Forgive in advance. If you make a decision every day to live in forgiveness, you won’t be waiting to “catch” someone misspeaking or stumbling in some way that can be attacked. And you won’t be feeding a habit of mocking. You can, instead, be training yourself to be predisposed to find agreement, commonality, peace.

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