Epic Battles: Sarcasm vs Sincerity

I mocked the chapel speaker.

Before you stone me for this sacrilege, let me explain: this particular chapel speaker delivered a thirty-minute message about God’s fatherly love for us. He was eloquent, engaging, and, worst of all, transparently sincere.

My list of top three fears (in my best radio-announcer voice) goes something like this:

In third place… failure!

The runner-up is…bees! (Also on this team: wasps, yellow jackets, and any other stinger-bearing spawn of the netherworld.)

And the first place prize goes to…… sincerity!

Fortunately this worst of all horrors is easy to counter. Whereas failure requires intensive, anxiety-driven nights of frustration and bees call for Jackie Chan-worthy evasive manoeuvres, sincerity collapses under the lightest touch of sarcasm.

Friends, I cannot sincerity, but I can sarcasm. I can sarcasm wittily, cynically, humorously, and persistently—individually or all at once. I’m versatile; I adapt to the situation with pro-level sarcasm precisely calculated to neutralise any threat of heartfelt, vulnerable sincerity.

Deadly as a ninja, my sarcasm attacks at the first sign of sincerity. Sincerity dies without ever knowing it was under attack.

Deadly as a ninja, my sarcasm attacks at the first sign of sincerity. Sincerity dies without ever knowing it was under attack.

While others absorbed assurances of love, I ridiculed the speaker’s analogies. While they healed under promises of unconditional acceptance, I snorted at his unintentional puns and remarked on every unrealistic scenario.

My inner cynic’s circular logic took in the experience eagerly. See, this is why I don’t make myself vulnerable. It’s dangerous; people mock it. People like me. Better mock this guy a bit more to prove the point.

Besides…his words hit home just a little bit. The superspy concepts that did evade my sarcasm—they touched a raw place. They triggered dangerous emotions that might have spilled out. Only my quick reflexes and practised sarcasm saved me from a catastrophic emotional meltdown.

We say sarcasm is cultural. We say it’s generational, or it’s a humour style, or it’s a harmless habit. But it’s also a defence mechanism. Well-placed sarcasm blocks truth’s poignant sting. And if we can counter truth, we can keep fear wrapped around our hearts—and that’s what we really want, deep down. The familiar suffocation of fear is preferable to the terrifying unknown of freedom.


Like medieval plate armour, fear is stiff, heavy, and difficult to get out of, but it is familiar and effectively blocks all of truth’s assaults.

So this week, I guess I didn’t face a fear. This week, I guess fear won our little game of life and death. And I guess sometimes that happens.

But next time, maybe I’ll give sarcasm a holiday. Maybe…maybe I’ll listen.


About Elizabeth Syson

While consuming tea and coffee at an alarming rate, I read and write everything I can and pursue my unnatural love of copyediting. My hobbies include learning new instruments and languages, riding horseback, sketching very badly indeed, and periodically recommitting to doing yoga regularly. View all posts by Elizabeth Syson

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