Yes, snarky is a slang term, and it’s listed in my dictionary as chiefly a British slang term meaning testy or irritable. But here in the USA it is alive and well, generally defined as finding fault. It is in general use in the Christian community, mostly as seen in the snarky comments delivered from one Christian to another, chiefly with the purpose of making the speaker look witty and the recipient look foolish.

Snarkiness is different from straight-up criticism, because criticism at least owns its intent. Snarkiness tries to disguise itself as something else, and the snarky person may even think he is just keeping everyone in his place, a job no doubt given him by the Holy Spirit. “If someone is getting too successful, just knock him down a notch.”  Isn’t that a verse somewhere in the Bible?

Now we can all probably remember when we’ve gotten a snarky comment from someone. I see them all the time. Some little kid may win a drawing contest, and the older kids (who did not win) make fun of him. It’s easy enough to think a snarky thought, but an adult should learn to not let it come out his mouth. But adults do it more than kids do, and my theory is because adults are better at envy and criticism than little kids are. They used to be, in fact, those little kids who tormented the littler kids on the playground. They grew up, got respectable jobs, and continue to hone their snarkiness skills. They can whip off with the snarky comment, email, text, or twitter to put just about anyone in their place. What a spiritual gift!

But though it is easy to remember when you’ve received a snarky comment,  how easy is it to remember the ones you’ve dished out? We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Sometimes the former is much harder than the latter. It’s easy to cluster around when someone is hurting. But how easy is it to rejoice with the competition when they succeed? If you have a hard time rejoicing, then you may have identified the problem. Our Christian brothers and sisters are not the competition. We are on the same team. And you know what we all think of the teammate who is riding all the others on the team. No one likes it and no one likes him.

Clearly we are to extend forgiveness to those who are snarky to us. We are to brush it off, laugh it off, ignore it, and then move on. And if we’ve been snarky to others, then of course we need to seek their forgiveness. Then we should ask God to (1) help us identify those moments when we are dying to let off a real smartie, and (2) give us the grace to hold our tongues and admonish our own hearts.

It’s a big world out there. We are either building up our brothers and sisters, or we are tearing them down. Guess which side snarkiness is on? Is that the side you want to be on?

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8 thoughts on “Snarkiness

  1. Nancy, this is excellent and much needed in the Christian community today. I’ve seen it too much and I don’t like it, it makes me cringe. And the fact that I’ve done it really bothers me, but Christ redeems and cleanses and my hope is in that.

    The other part about weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, is on target also. There are many Christians who can very easily “weep with those who weep” that’s when they are kind, generous, gracious etc. But I don’t see the same continuity when it’s time to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Since this is not my weakness, I tend to be hard on those who struggle with this. I do feel like I’ve grown in grace personally, but I still see it as a problem of envy and covetousness and I don’t know how to encourage others to overcome this. I’m assuming it’s just by setting a good and gracious example and to be longsuffering and praying for them. 🙂

  2. I have to ask, and I’m certainly not trying to step on any toes here – but when does fun and sarcasm cross over and become snarkiness? Couldn’t some people think that books like “Right Behind” and “The Mantra of Jabez” come across as quite snarky? I’m certainly not trying to criticize anyone, I’m just trying to find the difference between the two. In both cases something is definitely being mocked and made to look foolish. ????

  3. I actually wanted to ask the same question. (Thanks for the reminder, Garstabugg!) What’s the fine line (or maybe it’s a gaping chasm) between snarkiness and serrated edginess? I believe there is a qualitative difference but and I don’t think most people can see the difference at all. I can’t articulate that difference very well, but if pressed I would say that serrated edginess is prophetic and snarkiness is personal. I’d like to see that fleshed out a little more. Maybe the answer is just to read the book I linked above, but a blog-post-length response would be handy.

  4. Garsta and Val,

    Here’s the way I see it. Snarkiness is an ungodly response to someone who is getting ahead. It’s a way of “keeping them in their place,” and it is fueled by a competitive and/or critical spirit. Snarkiness has no other end in view than to put down. When Jesus made fun of the Pharisees, He was teaching them and those listening; He made fun of them, exposing their false ideas while teaching the Truth. He was not fueled by envy of their book sales. Of course Jesus did this perfectly, and we seek to imitate Him, though we obviously fall short. Satire that seeks to instruct, while making fun, is perfectly modeled for us by Jesus. And that’s what these books you mention were also attempting to do, making fun of evangelicalism’s follies, with the hope of getting us all to see the Truth.

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