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Witty Banter: Helpful or Hurtful?

After yesterday’s post on Be Kind, I was talking with a friend of mine about the line between joking and hurting.   I am someone who loves to banter, I enjoy joking around, being playful, using the occasional sarcasm. One of my favorite parts about my close relationships is the joking around, having inside jokes and playful reminders that it is good to laugh at myself.  Bantering reminds me not to take myself too seriously.  Whenever any of the people close to me joke with me there is an undercurrent, of love, of really ‘knowing’ me, and supporting me through my inconsistencies and humanity.  There is a fine line between bantering with someone and putting them down in the form of a joke.  A friend of mine calls it ‘kidding on the level’ when someone says something and laughs as if they were joking but there is a level of seriousness underneath.
When the undercurrent of our playfulness with someone is to cause pain, vent anger, ‘get them back’, or hurt them on any level we need to re-evaluate.  That is not being kind.  I believe, sometimes we use ‘humor’ as a way of expressing our hurt or frustration with someone.  What we might think as being playful is really down right stinging.  Unfortunately, I think it has become a way of life for many couples, families, relationships in our culture.  Rather then having REAL conversations about REAL subjects (thoughts, feelings, needs) we use sarcasm as a way to express or frustrations, vent our anger or just punish them.  We are moving at record speed these days and often times our feelings get pushed aside because of bad timing and/or rushed schedules. It is important to remember that our words have power and we need to pay attention to the messages underneath.
So in the theme of Be Kind, I want us to start building awareness around our ‘witty banter’.  The next time you are joking around with someone pay attention to how you are feeling, is it bringing up feelings of joy and laughter, a ‘knowing’ of how close you are or is it feeling hostile and resentful?  If it is more on the hostile side, maybe it is time to have a discussion about what might be going on underneath.  If you are feeling resentment towards that person maybe it is time to have some curiosity around the source of that resentment.  What might you REALLY be joking about?
If your banter brings you feelings of joy and closeness–then rock on!  Enjoy that relationship and treasure it.  Those relationships are a special gift to our lives and we need to bless each and every one of them!!