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One-a-Day...for the Heart: Snarky



  • Everything was fine, and then she got all snarky and weird.

  • He’s so snarky; it’s hard to bear his cantankerous ways.

  • It was such a snarky response—she’s so irritable and pessimistic.

  • I was trying to be considerate, and she got overly snarky with me.

The world must be producing increasing numbers of snarky people, for recently, I’ve heard the term used fairly often in conversations about people from varied walks of life. Snarky is not a complimentary adjective, so if anyone has described us as snarky, we should go to our room and stay there till we come out nice (an order we give our kids and grandkids when they’re cranky and irritable).

Webster’s snarky definition is crotchety, snappish, sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner. Synonyms include: crabby, cranky, cross, fiery, grouchy, grumpy, irritable, petulant, quick-tempered, snappy, snippy, and waspish. Waspish? Yikes. Wasps scare me.

I had to look up the word snarky to be sure of its meaning because I’ve never used it, but I see how descriptively handy it can sometimes be, sadly. We all know snarky people, and if we’re honest, we are snarky at times—like when we’re tired, exasperated, hungry, or angry. Grumbling, complaining, being irritable or quick-tempered are all indicators that Christ has more work to do in us.

Jesus wasn’t snarky, and His Word addresses the issue from many different angles. The quality that the Lord loves and notices most is faith. Remember that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:16). Grumpy, irritable, quick-tempered people tend to whine and complain a lot, to the point that they exhaust their listeners. Faith is not what comes out of their mouths; the opposite—unbelief—is the underlying theme of their negative, irreverent grumblings.

The Apostle Paul tells us, in Philippians 2:14-16 how differently we should behave from snarky grumblers: Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Grouchy, negative, complaining words never help our level of faith. Satan pulls out all the stops to tear down our faith, but we can undo it all by ourselves through complaining, speaking curtly or rudely, murmuring, being grouchy, or displaying any aspect of being snarky. Faith is destroyed with such language. Snappish means given to curt, irritable speech. I, for one, shut down if someone speaks curtly to me, and I don’t know too many people who enjoy such encounters. If we feel any level of faith for anything, a snappish remark can instantly reduce us to a pile of unbelief and despair.

Paul says we are to shine as lights in the world. There are 150-watt lightbulbs and 3-watt lightbulbs. The snarkier our speech, the dimmer our light grows. We extinguish the light almost entirely by encouraging unbelief through murmuring, complaining, and engaging in snarky speech and behavior.

God doesn’t like to hear grumpy complaints and negative speech because He knows it destroys faith and fosters unbelief. A leader in a church I once attended announced at a meeting in his home, where we all had a case of the grumpies, “There will be no spirit of grump here!” His rebuke was effective, as we all promptly stopped our grumpy speech and laughed at ourselves. The atmosphere in the room immediately lightened and brightened.

Our speech reflects what is in our hearts, as evidenced in the words of Jesus, “Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” Ultimately, left to itself, an unbelieving heart will cause a person to turn away from God. In Hebrews 3:12, we’re told, be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.

Here’s a remedy for your heart if you are stuck in an upsetting situation and are tempted to lose your cool or complain: PRAISE. It’s a hard pill to swallow if you’re all worked up and ready to be crabby, grouchy, or (God forbid) waspish, but it will shift the atmosphere around you. If you are the one being “snarked” at, PRAISE. It’s probably not realistic to burst into a chorus of How Great Thou Art, but honoring God with your response to the snarky person simply by giving him a soft answer can shift the atmosphere entirely, for a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).

There are many ways to honor and praise God in speech and actions without singing. Anything that gets the focus back on the Lord and away from the negativism will lift our spirits and nurture faith, not unbelief. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29 ESV).

© 2022, Chris Werre

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