Grow up, man

Joey Garcia

My husband has always been somewhat sarcastic, but over the years it’s become out of control. Our three kids are starting to communicate the same way. I find it annoying when one person is sarcastic, but excruciating to live with four people who can’t hold a conversation without being mean. My husband responds to my complaints by telling me that I should relax and that just jacks up the household tension. Please help.

Sarcasm is a style of humor employed by people who feel powerless. It’s categorized as a passive-aggressive speech pattern because it attempts to mask aggressive feelings like anger, insecurity or social awkwardness. By wrapping verbal attacks in a thin layer of mockery or irony the speaker convinces himself or herself that the sarcastic remark is less hurtful than it actually is.

Sarcasm is particularly popular with adolescents. Teens use it against their peer groups to reinforce the boundaries of their cliques, or against adults who tend to control teens instead of guiding them. Since we can all tap into personal memories of adolescence, comedians who use sarcastic, or “sophomoric,” humor can easily hook a mainstream audience. Sarcasm is always trending.

Most people who are sarcastic with family or friends get away with it. A casual “J.K.” (just kidding) and an indifferent shrug dismiss the hurt person’s feelings. But that doesn’t make these attacks acceptable. Sarcasm signals the speaker’s immature and frightened ego. Yes, that means your husband needs to grow up. Have you noticed what’s happening at home when his sarcasm arises? If his meanness is always attached to the same topics, he probably doesn’t believe in his capacity to face and manage his emotions or actions around those issues. His work, then, is to grow into a man who understands that he is fully capable of meeting a challenge as an equal. Try engaging him in a conversation about ways to confront his personal challenges, instead of attacking you. Let him know that you believe in his ability to handle problems maturely. Be prepared to go to counseling with him if needed. You should also remind him that sarcasm lays the groundwork for bullying, and that you don’t want your children to believe it is acceptable to inflict pain on others with such casual indifference.

One of my best friends went through a horrible breakup, quit her job, sold her condo and decided to travel for six months. She met a guy halfway through her trip, hooked up with him, and then went on her way. At the end of her trip she contacted him, and they got together again. After spending three more days together, they got married. That’s bad enough, but after visiting her recently, I am horrified by her life. He is controlling, sexist and crazy. She doesn’t see it. She is convinced that he adores her. Do you have any ideas about how I can get her to see what she’s done?

It’s impossible to save someone who does not believe she needs to be saved. So while I applaud your desire to protect a friend from herself, I want to caution you: Don’t be the voice of criticism. You may see and understand issues that your friend does not, but if you criticize her or her husband, she is likely to shut you out. Or her husband may insist that she end contact with you. Try pouring your concern into inspiring her to leave this man when she says she is ready to do so. Until then, your best recourse is to pray for her eyes to be opened and her heart to be free, if that is truly what is best for her.

Meditation of the week
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path,” wrote mythologist Joseph Campbell. Do you understand what it really means to be free?

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