The following was written by Dr. Clifford M, Lazarus, co-founder and director of The Lazarus Institute in New Jersey.
If you want to be happier and improve your relationships, cut out sarcasm since sarcasm is actually hostility disguised as humor. Despite smiling outwardly, most people who receive sarcastic comments feel put down and usually think the sarcastic person is a jerk. Indeed, it’s not surprising that the origin of the word sarcasm derives from the Greek word “sarkazein” which literally means “to tear or strip the flesh off.” Hence, it’s no wonder that sarcasm is often preceded by the word “cutting” and that it hurts.
What’s more, since actions strongly determine thoughts and feelings, when a person consistently acts sarcastically it usually only heightens his or her underlying hostility and insecurity. After all, when you come right down to it, sarcasm is a subtle form of bullying and most bullies are angry, insecure, cowards. Alternatively, when a person stops voicing negative comments, especially sarcastic and critical ones, he or she soon starts to feel happier and more self-confident. Also, the other people in his or her life benefit even faster because they no longer have to hear the emotionally hurtful language of sarcasm.
Now I’m not saying all sarcasm is bad. It’s just better used sparingly – like a potent spice in cooking. Too much spice and the dish will be overwhelmed by it. Similarly, an occasional dash of sarcastic wit can spice up a chat and add an element of humor to it. But a big or steady serving of sarcasm will overwhelm the emotional flavor of any conversation and taste very bitter to its recipient.
So, tone down the sarcasm and work on clever wit instead which is usually devoid of hostility and thus more appreciated by those you’re communicating with. In essence, sarcasm is easy (as is most anger, criticism and meanness) while true, harmless wit takes talent.
Thus, the main difference between wit and sarcasm is that, as already stated, sarcasm is hostility disguised as humor. It is intended to hurt, and is often bitter and caustic. Witty statements are usually in response to someone’s unhelpful remarks or behaviors, and the intent is to unravel and clarify the issue by accentuating its absurdities. Sarcastic statements are expressed in a cutting manner; witty remarks are delivered with undisguised and harmless humor.
Also, don’t hestate to tell others that you don’t appreciate their sarcastic comments because it’s just thinly veiled hostility and unacceptable bullying.
Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!
Dr. Clifford Lazarus blogs for Psychology Today’s “Think Well” https://www.psychologytoday.