We ought to daily evaluate ourselves for impatience, fear, and selfishness. Let us seek development of peace within ourselves and then outward towards others.
Let's examine God's character for a minute: Mercy forgiveness, love, kindness, compassion, patience, endurance, and peace. Although we are certainly to practice these principles with ourselves the bible describes our use of them to be with others. And if we are not practicing these principles with others then we are not doing it in a manner which mirrors the bible's description. Solitude is a great way to enlarge our inward understanding about our thought life, but too much of it can disengage us from productive spiritual participation in God's principles. To experience love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and empathy its best to get out of ourselves and engage with others. Through engagement with others we can better understand where our weaknesses lie; impatience, judgement, resentment, and fear.
Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Our differences have purpose and meaning
To practice understanding, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and patience we ought to be in safe situations regularly where we can be challenged with our patience and mercy etc. There are many people who are striving to love God, but are quite different than us in there approach. Being different does not necessarily mean they are wrong. In fact, they might see something we don't and through our self-evaluation, seeing how we are with God's character, we may learn where we still need more growth. Our impatience, pride, and selfishness often create struggles within our intimacy with others. Our shame, fear, past hurts, and lack of faith in listening to that gentle, yet powerful, Spirit of God residing in us creates separation, hardened heart or spiritual dullness. We ought to seek spiritual intimacy, trusting God not people, our guiding gift the Holy Spirit of God, and follow its loving, truthful, forgiving, and merciful ways. Then we can grow toward God.
Instead of judging another person's differences as being incorrect or weak we ought to ask ourselves why being around such a person makes us uncomfortable. What is it within our mindset that makes it difficult for us? Are we frustrated, fearful, angry, or hurt? Are we being patient, merciful, and forgiving? Is there restoration needed? Are our thoughts aligned with God? It might be that the character in that person reminds us of a past experience which brought about suffering that we hope to avoid=repression & control.
With continued self evaluation and facing our struggles we can find many ways to improve in shaping our hearts and minds toward God. If we struggle to see we can often get ideas from a family member or spiritual teacher. Everyone has room to improve. Recognizing our brokenness is confession and a beginning toward a spiritual trusting relationship with God. As we practice God's character and pray for his strength we can find value in our meekness and humility. It is much easier to be changed by God when we are submitting to the changing process. If we become rigid, stiff necked, or hard-hearted, we will suffer loss of spiritual connection.
In groups where feelings are expressed and personal information is disclosed we can often feel challenged, afraid, or angry. In safe and supportive environments, if we want to run out the door or change the subject, such a response would most likely be following fear. Intimacy can be a difficult and an uncomfortable experience. God commands us to do it anyway. If we desire benefits from God we must participate in God's will. It is essential that we understand who God is and how to serve God's character. If we share with others, we ought to do so in a Godly manner. Winning approval from others ought not to be the reason for our choices and actions. Such action would better fit idolatry. When we place people before God we separate ourselves from God and become dependent upon people. If we throw our heart on the table expecting others to embrace us we might be let down and fear doing it again. In such a case we were placing expectations and conditions upon people instead of seeking God's will as a humble servant. I'll do ... if ... doesn't quite fit how the bible describes God's will for us to speak with God. What we do in our sharing with others ought to be done in service to God with intentions of growing in Godly character. How we behave toward and with others ought to done as practicing God's character. Our intimacy is not to be given with contingencies or expectations from others. Why would we use God's gift of grace toward earning profit? It is to be freely given knowing that such action feeds our soul even more grace and provides opportunity to feed another's soul as a blessing. As we blessed others, being humble servants of God's grace, we are blessed.
Discernment in our relationships
We ought to protect our heart, Spirit, mind, and soul from those who have little or no intention of growing with God. There are many who desire to exploit others for their selfish gain. There are those who can become controlling and unwilling to be honest with themselves/others about their own struggles. Such people can become stagnant and make attempts to keep intimacy out of group conversations. They can become defensive when confronted, use intimidation or threats, and perhaps even leave the group. Does God or Christ chase after those who are unwilling and resistant? No. Even the father of the prodigal son waits for the son to come back and when that son comes back the son knows he is to abide with the fathers expectations. The son runs to the father not the other way around.
We must use caution to ensure our pride does not create excuses based on other's struggles to resist intimacy. We continue to share and then call out others with gentleness, truth, and love who may seem to be making intimacy unsafe. The goal is increased intimacy of growing in Godly character, not protecting feelings and creating happiness. Peace often times is the result of deep emotional healing.
Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere.
Many people wear a mask in front of others and do what ever they believe other people want them to do. We are to be honest and sincere to help us heal from our fear of what other people think. We are to face confrontation and let others be unhappy with us. We do not control them and we are not God. We can pray for them and practice God's love with honesty and sincerity.
1 Thessalonians 2:5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.
John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We build God's kingdom by giving into God's principles and letting them shape us. As we become the type of people God calls us to be we become models for others to do the same. We need inter-relational experiences to help show us what we need to change within ourselves and then as others see us change they may be convinced they can change too. As others witness us growing in love, forgiveness, mercy, and peace they will become more attracted to who we are becoming.
Matthew 10:22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
People mock and put down what they do not understand. When people start changing and believing in something new, others will speak negatively about it. Remember, we serve God not man. Our focus is to remain in God and stay with him.
Luke 21:19 Stand firm, and you will win life.
Proverbs 25:27 It is not good to eat much honey; So to seek one’s own glory is not glory.
Attending a group is the easy part. Staying in it and facing our fear, negative thoughts, and discomfort is another story. Standing firm Godly character is an essential spirit building activity. It's like when the dentist is getting ready to drill we instinctively resist, but we convince ourselves to let it happen. When we catch ourselves resisting to participate with intimacy we ought to convince ourselves to continue in love and compassion for others for the spiritual power within it. As we share our heart people are affected and often relate. This interpersonal relating builds relationships and heals wounds. Isolation can be extremely destructive in many ways. How can we possibly serve the spiritual kingdom avoiding intimacy with others? Sin living in us may try to convince us to keep away from people. Pride, fear, resentment, greed, and selfishness are all against God. God desires connections because God's spirit within us thrives on honesty, sincerity, love, and compassion.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Colossians 4:12 He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
Ephesians 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
1 Thessalonians 3:8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Choose friends with discernment
Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.
Proverbs 24:21 My son, fear the LORD and the king; Do not associate with those given to change;
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Zechariah 5:3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘Every thief shall be expelled,’ according to this side of the scroll; and, ‘Every perjurer shall be expelled,’ according to that side of it.”
Job 15:34 For the company of hypocrites will be barren, And fire will consume the tents of bribery.
Job 34:8 Who goes in company with the workers of iniquity, And walks with wicked men?
Psalm 68:11 The Lord gave the word; Great was the company of those who proclaimed it:
1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
2 Thessalonians 3:14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Blaming, shaming, and fault finding block us from God's love. It is one thing to recognize sin and it is another to view the sin with fear and anger. Instead, we are to rebuke the sin gently with love and peace.
Proverbs 18:1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.
The message of Love
If we use the words I love you and then do not treat the person we said it to with high regard, respect, and interest then there is a conflict with the message making ourselves out to be confusing. Too often the words "I love you" are tossed out with the same respect and meaning as "have a nice day." Then we end up looking bad if we do not return the same devaluing use of the phrase hence making ourselves out to be false flattering. We degrade our spiritual condition for the sake of not upsetting the other person. Both scenarios presented above are damaging to the spiritual message. We are to speak the truth with all sincerity from the heart being fully focused and aware of what we are saying. We are to avoid using false flattery, deception, and lies. Even white lies. We are called to live for God in a way which draws attention to what we are doing. It is counter-cultural.
Keeping in mind the Holy Spirit of God resides in the person we are talking with
Follow up - Being Clear, clarify, ask questions, repeat, affirm
Please and Thank You - Reinforces a humble attitude
Listening with ears and eyes - paying close attention to what is said
Persevere with patience (two of God's qualities)
It may take a few attempts to connect with someone, but give them time to process information. There are times when we get approached about an uncomfortable topic and become guarded. We react defensively to shut down the uncomfortable conversation, but then later realize there was truth in it. We slowly accept the truth and become more able to talk about it.
Sarcasm-except for our own ego deflation.
Condescending remarks - putting down others
Passive aggressiveness - retaliation in subtle ways to get even
Raising voice - controlling behaviors
Talking down to others
Blaming and shaming
Gossip - talk about others when they are not around
Avoidance or Silent treatment
Keeping record-I'll do this if you do that, this is dependency upon others instead of God
In groups it has been suggested to use 'I' statements to avoid lecturing, giving unwanted advice, and keeping the focus on our own experience. We are to provide our own experience, struggles, fears, anger, successes, gratitude, joy, peace, love, grace, and mercy. The deeper we go, the deeper the group will be, but someone needs to lead the journey.
The material below was copied from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/battling-sinful-sarcasm
Over the course of a few email exchanges we pegged each other's sense of humor. By the first time we met face to face, she felt like a sister. She says sarcasm is her “sixth love language.” For years it's been mine too. From my Texas heart to her Northern one, our two different breeds of sarcasm complemented one another. In silliness, smirks, and jesting, we fluently communicated our love for the gospel, our families, and a plethora of other randomness.
Sarcasm has always come naturally to me. It is often the way I communicate love to those I feel the most comfortable around. The better I know you, the more I enjoy joking around. Innocent quips are my kind of hug.
If my sarcasm always felt like a loving and innocent hug, there'd be no reason to question my heart's motives. But when my humor feels more like a slap in the face, when people don't “get” my sarcasm, and my jokes leave behind a wake of wounded brothers and sisters, I'm forced to dig a little deeper and face the facts.
Sarcasm Isn't Innocent
It's insincere. When a friend says something hurtful to me, I might say, “Man! What a jerk!” The semi-joking tone suggests I'm only kidding. Really, I mean it with all my heart. By making jokes I pretend I'm not hurt. I jab back and hope my sharp humor sends the message loud and clear: “I'm hurt. Back off.” When in pain, I slip on sarcasm as a mask.
It's lazy. It's certainly easier and less socially awkward to hide behind humor when I feel threatened or embarrassed. But dealing in sarcasm is at best a temporary fix and at worst a catalyst for deeper and more substantial relational strain. Primarily or, worse, exclusively confronting troubles in sarcasm is a passive-aggressive way to address my own sins and the sins of others.
It's dangerous. Regularly wielding sarcasm as a shield or a weapon—whether intentionally or unintentionally—can be problematic and dangerous. When I'm well-versed in witty banter yet lacking in words of edification and love, my sarcastic personality is no longer humorous; it's just hurtful.
Let's call a spade a spade: sarcasm often gives us license to be lightheartedly hateful. Only I can look inside my heart and determine when I'm honoring God with my sense of humor and when I'm grieving his name. When my sarcasm condemns, judges, shames, or isolates God's image-bearers, I sin against God's cherished craftsmanship.
I want desperately to grow in holiness and be known by my love instead of my sarcasm. Humor is a part of who God made me, and it's my job to learn to submit my snark at the foot of the cross and wield my powers for good, not evil.
Over the past few months the Holy Spirit has helped me identify the crouching sins associated with my sarcasm. Asking the following questions has helped in my battle against sinful sarcasm:
1. Is there even an ounce of truth behind my sarcasm?
“Good morning, honey! I see you've decided to leave all the drawers open this morning. What an interesting choice!” A chuckle and seemingly innocent “just kidding” doesn't hide the fact I'm actually quite irritated with my husband for failing to remember open drawers are a major pet peeve. If there's truth behind the barb, ditch the sarcasm. It's nothing but fancy-schmancy passive-aggressiveness, and it leads to bitterness, anger, and unresolved conflict. Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). In some cases, love may require me to flee the temptation to be sarcastic (1 Tim. 6:11) and wait for the Spirit to change the meditations of my heart (Ps. 19:14)
2. Would God be more glorified by my silence than my humor?
We've all heard this adage: “If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.” When in doubt, I should pray the words of Psalm 141:3, that the Lord would set a guard over my mouth and keep watch over the door of my lips. My words are powerful. Submitting my sense of humor to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit honors God and protects those around me.
3. Will words of edification bring more joy to the hearer than words of sarcasm?
My jokes have the potential to get a few chuckles, but my edification can extend God's grace (Heb. 12:15), admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak (1 Thess. 5:14). In light of eternity, choosing to encourage and lift a soul is infinitely more valuable than a few seconds of belly laughs.
Grace for the Sarcastic
By the grace of God, my sinful sarcastic tendencies have been confronted many times over. If yours have, too, don't despair. There's grace for the sarcastic. Christ died while we were yet joking, jabbing, and laughing at others. He came to pardon our prideful, mocking, and rebellious hearts. He made a way for us to be restored to fellowship with the Father when we deserved punishment and hell.
God's unmerited grace through Christ leads me to repentance when my sarcasm goes too far. It compels me to apologize when my words cut deep.
Brothers and sisters, let's not sarcastically banter our way out of relationships with one another. Let's keep humor funny and sin mournful. May we steward our humor by the grace of God and keep our sarcasm from masking unholy heart attitudes.
"Sarcasm is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt."
Sarcasm affecting the community or group
Intimate sharing can be an uncomfortable experience for many people especially men. Movies depict scenes of intimacy shared between men which often times will be completed with a sarcastic remark. There are often times situations where sarcasm provides a sense of lifting spirits. Sarcasm often times is intended to be a joke to help people laugh and feel good. Yet it is received with mixed reviews. Some people laugh while others might not get it or become silently offended. This is not spiritually good. Sarcasm does not raise anyone's love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, truth, or generosity. Sarcasm can move against the spirit, be deceiving and block intimacy.
Confusion may be created in sarcasm. "What did he mean by that?" It's like a game where what is said is not really what the person means and others need to figure it out, like some sort of puzzle. With some practice and experience people can learn this deceptive game.
Destruction of trust in sarcasm
Genesis 19:14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.
Genesis 19:14 is a great example of how destructive sarcasm can be in an emergency situation. People who use sarcasm can create a sense of distrust from others. People who are abused with sarcasm learn not to trust. It's like fake throwing a ball for a dog. A dog unaccustomed to the fake throw will see the arm going in motion, anticipate the ball being released, and then run to where the dog is used to seeing the ball go. But the ball was not thrown. The dog has been tricked creating humor for others who think it humorous to fool the dog. After a while with repetition the dog will adapt to this fakeness. The dog will not run unless it sees the ball being released. The thrower will become even more crafty and learn to move the arm in a throwing motion while hiding the ball behind the thrower's back. Now the dog sees the ball is gone from the throwing hand and will go look for it. If this continues the dog will eventually doubt the thrower and not run to look for the ball unless the dog sees the ball. If the ball is thrown, but the dog somehow missed seeing it, the dog will not go look for it. The dog will sit thinking the ball is hidden behind the throwers back. Sarcastic deception is destructive toward trust and creates doubt which is poison toward spiritual unity.
Proverbs 26:28 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, 19 Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “I was only joking!”
This form of sarcasm is used to demean others by pointing out faults for the entertainment of those who find it funny. It's like laughing at someone who falls down. Middle school can be a breading ground for this kind of behavior. Students see differences in each other and point them out, "fat, skinny, clumsy, dumb, big ears, bad hair cut, dirty, stinky, ugly clothes, weak, cry baby, scared, tattle tale, etc. Students learn to hide, cover up, lie, and avoid those who use sarcasm. Students learn to put on an act, "that doesn't bother me," and then secretly be angry or privately cry.
It is difficult to address the prideful fault-finder in their sarcasm. The sarcastic fault-finder will present it like a joke. If the victim of the 'Joke' is offended the fault-finder will blame the victim thinking them to be "sensitive" or "weak." The attacker encourages the victim to play the game of sarcasm. The victim will risk being scene by the attacker or observers as weak if they attempt to discuss the heart of the matter. Often times the victim will be faced with a choice of putting up with it, end/limit association with the attacker, or seek a way to "get even."
Codependents or conflict avoiders play a big role in this game. The attacker uses aggression and will often times seek out codependents or conflict avoiders because they will condone the game. Codependents or conflict avoiders will avoid any heated confrontation because they fear the discomfort of expressed anger. So if the attacker is confronted, the goal of the codependent or conflict avoider will be to control the temperature of the confrontation and keep everything cool. The attacker will often times use this to their advantage blaming the victim of the sarcasm who is confronting for the problem. Codependents or conflict avoider would rather condone the sarcasm instead of confronting it due to the ramifications of the attacker becoming angry.
Pride battle in sarcasm
Then there's that sarcasm that has truth in it. This can occur where two people have been sarcastic with each other, but it is now turning into a sarcastic boxing match. They use the sarcasm to demean each other with jabs of fault-finding put downs. They laugh and act like they are having a good time, but underneath the fake presentation it hurts. The hurt can lead to reactions of other forms of passive aggressiveness, outward aggression, or breaking off the relationship.
Unfortunately sarcasm is everywhere. It is indoctrinated in families, culture, and even church. It is supported and encouraged by the masses. People grow up with it and then spend their lives using it. It becomes an automatic response. When something is practiced over and over for years it is difficult to change, but possible. People change all the time when they can commit to the process. Change is a responsibility requiring focus, energy, structure, self-discipline, and much effort. If we are going to grow spiritually-intimately then we must place an emphasis upon eliminating such destructive sarcasm.
One place where it can be controlled is group therapy. A good therapist will control the temperature of the group and call out the bully. One way to help and attacker with sarcasm is to ask the person questions about the behavior.
"Why did you choose to be sarcastic?"
"What did the sarcasm do for you or for others?"
"What is happening here spiritually in this exchange?"
"Does this sarcasm help develop us spiritually?"
"Was their fault being pointed out, pride, or fear of intimacy?"
Good from of sarcasm?
If there is a good form of sarcasm/God's goodness, which is a big question, it would be a form which fits God's character. This would fall into the category of humbling ourselves. We would be sarcastically pointing out our own faults. When this method is used it often times embraces situations where others in the group also can relate. A person in recovery can sarcastically speak to their many poor decisions. Yet even this is still an attempt to escape the sincere emotional severity of the desperate situation. In recovery meetings one might say, "I had this great idea..." followed by a description of spiritual, personal, social, economic, or legal destruction. "I had this great idea that I could outrun the police." In this statement what they are really conveying is how dumb that decision was and perhaps might follow up with how they spent time in jail. What often times will not be shared is the fear they produced in others with their driving, the frustration of the police officer, or the hurt experienced by their family. Such emotional reality will usually be avoided from the sharer. Such sharing might be too real, deep, intimate, and personal.
God calls us to God's reality. God calls us into a deeper sincere and emotional reality. This means we will be setting ourselves up, at times, to be picked on. We will be wearing our hearts on our sleeves, but through faith instead of fear, because we are trusting God. We will no longer be relying upon others for their approval of us. We now seek God's character/intimacy. We now understand that being real, truthful, and sincere is spiritual. Deception is our enemy. The middle school attitudes and games of sarcasm create an unsafe atmosphere for intimate sharing. Condoning such action is teaching the group to limit sharing. We ought to seek out forgiveness and mercy with truth and justice. In each situation we will have choice of what role to take, attacker, codependents or conflict avoider, victim, or spiritual leader in truth and accountability. Let us put on the full armor of God as we seek out intimate relationships with other believers.