33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

(Numbers 30:1-16)

Quakers have a traditional testimony of integrity that we try to live up to. One component of this testimony is speaking the truth at all times.

In swearing an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, you are setting a dual standard for yourself. It is as if you are not obligated to tell the truth at all other times. Friends think that this is a moral hazard that they will not expose themselves to and so, refuse to swear oaths.

In legal proceedings we affirm to tell the truth. This is a hard won legal right that early Quakers went to prison for as a matter of conscience. In modern times this phrase; do you swear or affirm to tell the truth, goes by without much notice.

There is another part of modern speech that goes by without much notice. It is sarcasmthe use of language which on the face of a situation appear to be appropriate, but is meant to be understood as meaning the opposite of what is said, usually in a negative or destructive way. Sarcasm is ridicule.

Sarcasm is a close cousin to ironybut many people don’t understand, or don’t care to understand the difference. Situations can be ironic. People can be unintentionally or intentionally ironic, but sarcasm requires conscious verbal aggression.

The fact that you are not saying what you mean is enough for me to stay away from sarcasm. When you are conscious of it you will notice it’s pervasiveness in our culture.

Can you go a day without being sarcastic? A week? How about an hour…?

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Comment by William F Rushby on 1st mo. 29, 2015 at 10:14am

Hello, Roger!

Life is often quite complicated.  I was the postmaster in a country village for many years. I once remember answering a questionnaire  from headquarters about the condition of my post office (the old one).   It was in terrible shape, and I told them so!

Apparently, they didn't want to hear the truth, and issued me a reprimand! -)   I learned through that incident that one cannot always tell the whole truth!

I heard about a movie many years ago in which the leading character took some kind of potion that made him always tell the truth.  I didn't see the movie but, as I recall, his truth-telling caused considerable havoc.

Moral of the story: telling the truth is important, but one must also be tactful and discreet!

Comment by James C Schultz on 1st mo. 29, 2015 at 1:54pm

Sarcasm is a funny thing.  From the wrong heart and outside of a loving relationship it can be hurtful.  Within a loving relationship, one where the other party knows you care for them individually, it can be a reminder to the recipient of his or her own foibles but even then your heart has to be right.  It can't be from a place of superiority but must be from a place of humbleness not only recognizing ourselves that we do the same things we are trying to point out to the other but the other must be able to recognize that as well.  Pretty tricky so best to stay away from as much as possible.  Having said that sometimes it is just necessary to stop someone from putting their own heart in danger.  See Proverbs 4:23

Comment by Roger Vincent Jasaitis on 1st mo. 29, 2015 at 5:52pm

You are both pointing out salient issues with language and how we use it to express ourselves, especially "on the fly" in any given context. Easy it is not!

Comment by James C Schultz on 1st mo. 30, 2015 at 9:17am

I have to correct myself.  By definition ( I had to check) Sarcasm involves bitterness so it reflects a bitter or angry heart.  There's a scripture that says "Out of the heart, the mouth speaketh."  What I was referring to is more properly " to chide" or chiding, if there is such a word.

Comment by Roger Vincent Jasaitis on 1st mo. 30, 2015 at 9:45am

There can be a fine line between irony and sarcasm. Sometimes that line is within the recipients judgement.

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