In early 2015, my father died.
He spent the final sixteen months of his life in our home,loving and being loved. Our time with him was a multi-faceted blessing and we have no regrets.
One of the unanticipated gifts of this experience is the opportunity for soul-searching that it has provided me since his passing.
It is hard for me to admit that in my own life, I have been repeating some of my father’s bad habits. Despite promising myself early in life that it could never happen, I resemble him in many ways. Recognizing that some of my dad’s bad habits endure within me, reinforces the truth that modeling is a very powerful teacher in life and that so often, more is caught…than taught. Candidly, some of the lessons that I have unconsciously learned from Pop, now have to be purposely unlearned.
Certain aspects of my personality are very unattractive when I recognize them in others. For reasons that elude me, I am less able to see and admit to these same characteristics in myself.
One admission that I readily make is that for most of my life, I have mislabeled my use of sarcasm, as either a quick-witted humor or just an informal way of communicating with family and friends. Ironically, I have now come to believe that sarcasm rarely works; rather it is usually hurtful and rarely communicates effectively. It often leaves others frustrated in their attempts to interpret what I was trying to convey.
I’ve heard sarcasm referred to as “sideways anger” and the lowest form of wit. Upon reflection, I believe that both references fit perfectly.
On a daily basis, I am trying to starve sarcasm out of my spirit and my speech, because the risks of continuing to use it are just too high. When I am honest with myself, I recognize my tendency to joke sarcastically about the things that are really pretty important to me.
Here is a personal example to make the subtly more real: When I get home from work one evening, my wife is innocently texting a friend. I react by saying– “Man, I sure wish that I had my phone nearby so we could communicate tonight!” No matter how you turn it, the measured quip is laced with hidden meanings and emotional barbs. I hold an “I was just kidding” close, just in case I upset her.
Now with discipline and intention, I’m taking a more candid approach when communicating my truer feelings. On my better days, my response in the aforementioned scenario sounds more like this: “Honey, when you are finished texting, can we turn our phones off and go for a walk? I want to connect and get caught up on our day.”
I continue to look for ways to starve sarcasm– but it has not been easy. Growing up in my family required a black belt in the art of simultaneously amusing and mocking people. When we were at the “top of our game”, people would not know whether to laugh….or to cry.
On a go-forward basis, I will consciously resist taking the chance of hurting or confusing others with sarcasm. I am displacing the bad habit with a commitment to vulnerability and honesty. I will share with others my legitimate wants, needs and desires. I will no longer cloak these things in a veil of stinging humor or barbed wit.
When I slip, I apologize promptly and explain that I am trying to break a bad habit. It has been humbling, but I have asked my wife and those closest to me to help with gentle reminders. I will unlearn what I have learned, and in so doing I will breathe life into every one of my important relationships.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying….cause you are!