I had such high hopes for the Year of Mercy. We actually have Holy Doors 5 minutes away so I was really excited to take the fam for the opening Mass and have us all walk through the doors. It was surprisingly moving. I had tears. I perused some of the parish opportunities to minister to the poor, imagining all of the merciful goodness that would come out of me this year. Then you sent me Elizabeth Scalia’s list of 56 Ways to be Merciful (aleteia.org) and #1 on the list – number flipping 1 is: ” Resist Sarcasm. It is the antithesis of mercy.” Boom. Mic drop. Is the Year of Mercy over for me already or will it become a Year of Silence? Didn’t see that coming.
As one of my closest friends, I know you often value my gift of witty banter, which may sometimes be referred to as “snarky.” It is not my intention to be mean. Any more. Time, age and life have mellowed me and I would like to think that I am a kinder, gentler person. But maybe not. When do comical observations about people and things around us turn from Jane Austin-inspired witticisms into unmerciful sin? Yikes.
Ms. Scalia hit a nerve for a lot of us, I think. In an interview with Jennifer Fulwiler (who thankfully spoke of her own struggle with sarcasm – yea, Jen!), Ms. Scalia talked about sarcasm being one way in which we objectify people. When we make sarcastic remarks about others, we strip away their humanity. Ouch. Really? I hadn’t thought about it like that.
My other concern is that sarcasm may have become such an ingrained part of my speech and persona, that I am not sure I can avoid it. I remember a quote from the John Knowles novel A Separate Peace (Required reading freshman year of high school, yes? Phinny stay out of that tree!), “Sarcasm is the weapon of the weak.” Ouch. I must be REALLY weak. So when is wit sarcasm and when is it just funny? Or should I just plan for a very quiet year?
Seeking guidance, your weak friend,