Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon
is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.”
Proverbs 26:18-19

Leslie and I were in the middle of a joint project and had just resolved a small tiff about me being more patient with her differing work style. She is process-oriented, relational and unruffled, while I am far more task-oriented, sequential and time-conscious in tackling a project.

And because I push myself hard most of the time, I can, admittedly, push others (including my wife) and become irritatingly impatient.

Well, as I said, we had just resolved this squabble, or so we thought, when only a few minutes later the following words tumbled out of my mouth: “Can’t you pick up the pace a little here, we’re never going to meet our deadline at this rate?”

Leslie looked at me in sheer amazement, made a quick study of my facial expression, determined that I was serious, and burst into tears.

I would have done anything to rewind the clock thirty seconds at that point, but it was too late. I winced, but I could not deny that my true feelings had seeped out and I could do little to retract them. Or could I?

In a vain attempt to do just that, I resorted to a knee-jerk response invented for just such an occasion. With as much sincerity as I could muster, I uttered the infamous: “I was only joking!”

A joke is a very serious thing.
–Winston Churchill

Ya, right. Leslie and I both knew I wasn’t joking. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Literally. Solomon must have used it, or heard it used plenty to have written this Proverb (26:18-19): Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

Somehow, if we can convince another person that a harmful statement was said as a joke, we believe we’ll be off the hook. But this is just another sneaking way of avoiding responsibility.

When we cover over a hurtful remark with the “I-was-only-joking” line, it does nothing but add insult to injury in the relationship. It is like shooting deadly arrows.

Reflect and Respond

How do you use humor in your marriage?

Go ahead, tell us in the comments.

Related Resource

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