Have you ever noticed there are some people you can visit with whose entire conversation will be criticisms and complaints about others? Criticisms of how the government functions, about how their mother-in-law is stupid, or their boss is a jerk, or their husband is a child who can't manage a grocery trip without the wife's supervision...and the list goes on. Pet peave overload, here we come!
Because there are many stupid things in the world (and yes, many stupid people in it), it's easy to have these conversations. And not all criticisms are wrong or useless.
But I wonder if you would be as surprised as I was to realize that this kind of talk is scoffing. I have been seriously taken aback by this. Probably because this is something I'm very guilty of.
Yes, saying "very guilty" is sort of like saying "a little pregnant": either you are or you aren't. But I am VERY guilty of scoffing. I don't just do it now and then. I do it all the time. Criticism comes naturally to me (obviously because I am so perfect that everyone else just can't measure up, right?). It's easy for me to look at the frailty or mistakes of others and be quick to scoff at it. Ben calls it "The Tsk-Sigh Syndrome", where you look at something and say, "Tsk, *sigh*, can you believe how dumb/bad/ridiculous this is?!"
To speak to someone or about something in a scornfully derisive or mocking way.
"department officials scoffed at the allegations"
synonyms: mock, deride, ridicule, sneer at, jeer at, jibe at, taunt, make fun of, poke fun at, laugh at, scorn, laugh to scorn, dismiss, make light of, belittle; informal pooh-pooh.
In Psalm 1, an overview of a blessed man begins with the statement, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers." The word "lutzim" (mockers) is literally translated as "to make mouths at, i.e. to scoff; hence (from the effort to pronounce a foreign language) to interpret, or (generally) intercede."
When you are making fun of someone or criticizing in a "I can't believe how stupid this is!" way, you are scoffing.
There is a difference between scoffing and illustrating wrong thinking in a humorous way to teach someone something important. When I say to Abigail, "So you thought it was a good idea to take your milk and pour it onto your sandwich? Do you think soggy sandwiches are really delicious?" I am not scoffing at her, but helping her to think through the consequences of her actions without declaring, "Thou shalt not ever, ever, EVER pour your milk on your sandwich!!!!!!"
Sometimes a little humor makes it much easier to get someone's point than if they solemnly and firmly declared everything they thought you needed to know.
But a little humor in love is a lot different than the arrogant puffing up of scoffing. Criticism given even-handedly for good is different than making myself feel smarter or better than someone else by looking down scornfully on what they are doing.
The lesson for me? Don't mock. Don't laugh at what others do, whether I believe it's right or wrong. Don't make fun. Don't scoff. Don't start thinking lots of people are really stupid for thinking what they think because it's different than what I think. There will be no blessing in that.
2/13/2015 10:36:42 pm
I agree with you on the dangers of scoffing - I'm glad you wrote this post as I've been thinking about this and gossip recently, and the hurt it can cause; the damage of trust in relationships, even long after the fact and unbeknownst to those who passed on the gossip.
2/15/2015 01:00:53 am
You're absolutely right, especially about the heart. I think we all face a danger of becoming hard-hearted towards those around us all the time, through selfishness and pride and bitterness and other such problems. And so often I think these problems exist without the bearer (myself, others, whoever) truly being aware of them because we think of ourselves as basically good people with good intentions so we aren't actually doing anything wrong. "To thine ownself be true" is not an easy admonition.
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Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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