Have you experienced a person who has hurt you deeply with their sarcasm or a put down? Has their look or their behavior given you the message you were not accepted by what you had said or done? It may not have been sarcasm but an off-handed comment that went straight to your soul. When you confront them with it, they respond with the words, “I was only joking!” “I was only kidding!” “Can’t you take a joke?” “You’re too sensitive.” Their words don’t lessen the stinging comment they just said that caused you to feel put down. However, they think they are off the hook because they said, “I was only joking.” “I was only kidding.”
To be honest, whenever a person says those words, there is always some truth to what they are thinking and feeling when the sarcastic message or off-handed comment comes out. The message is hurtful. They put down some aspect of a person’s character or quality that truly needs to be affirmed. The problem surfaces when the person who initiated the comment doesn’t take responsibility for the negative impact of the comment. It is further exasperated when there is a minimization of the negative message.
Solomon in Proverbs spoke to this issue or relational disconnect when he said, “Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows, so is the person who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!'” Proverbs 26:18-19. Solomon used the word deceitful to describe the process of throwing out negative barbs and then not taking responsibility for them. He describes a madman throwing out flaming darts and deadly arrows in every direction, not knowing where they will land with no thought of those darts landing on someone and causing personal damage.
Words, especially negative words directed at an individual, have a profound impact on that person’s view of themselves that can last forever. I am reminded of Aaron Rogers, the Green Bay quarterback, who years ago had a similar message given to him when he was going to the University of California. One of the teachers at that college told him early on in his college years that he would never make it in the NFL and that he should begin to think about another profession. Even after Aaron was drafted, he was still bugged by the negative comment. To this day, when he is introduced at the start of any game, it is announced that he graduated from Butte College, not the University of California, the college he was actually drafted from.
On this journey, don’t hide behind the “I was only joking” comments after saying a negative word to a person. Take responsibility and begin to change the negative words to words of affirmation. You may never know how those positive words could be the catalyst that can spark stardom in the life of another.