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Insults and Quips

Question:

Recently I’ve cut down drastically on my use of harsh language in an offensive manner, but I’m wondering on something. Me and my friends will ridicule each other and call each other unbelievably horrid things, just to joke around. We all know it, and in case any of them ever take me seriously I quickly make sure that they know I’m joking, and it’s all in the spirit of fun. Which they then understand and we continue. What do you think about this?

Answer:

I think this may be more of a question for a psychologist than a Buddhist, but I’ll give it a shot. There are two ways of looking at this:

1) You and your friends all know you’re only kidding, and as long as no one gets carried away or angry, it’s all in good fun. No harm done. I have friends that I “snipe” with as well. It’s really a matter of intention and how close you are. Still, it can very easily lead to problems.

2) It’s easy to go too far and cause hurt. You never know when it’s going to happen, but it can happen, and when it does, it’ll be too late to correct. Everyone knows not to call children “stupid” and other things; we all know their self-esteem will be damaged. Adults have thicker skins, but over time, it will wear through.

3) Another thing to consider is that words, even in jest, have power. Constant repetition of certain words used as an insult do lead to real social problems. As an example, there is a certain derogatory word associated with homosexuals (the “other” F-word) that I hear used constantly among teenagers, and this has to amplify any teens’ fears or homophobia. If it’s that insulting to be called one, then it must be really terrible to actually be one, right?

It’s very easy for words to cause suffering in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Although verbal humorous sniping is usually socially acceptable in limited amounts, as a Buddhist, you need to think through the whole picture and decide where the fun stops and the suffering begins.

2 comments to Insults and Quips

  • Micah

    I agree that words can be hurtful even if said in jest. As Brian points out they can “wear down” on a person. One thing to consider is if, by teasing another, you are trying to inflate your own ego. (by you and your friends constantly teasing one another you may be playing “ego tennis” each taking their turn at tearing another down.
    I would suggest going for a few weeks and not using “dark humor” with your friends. See what if feels like (I am sure it would be ackward at first), and see if you come to any new realizations.

  • Timothy Hilgenberg

    I also agree with Brian in that it probably is not such a good idea. I would like to add for your further consideration that you might want to take into account others who may accidentally overhear your banter… they may not appreciate your name calling is a game and may therefore be unintentionally “offended”.

    If you look for the bad, you’ll find it therefore it may be better to look for the good – how about trying to find the most complimentary expression you can for your friends – it’s still a language game only this time you’re looking for positives :-)

    enjoy & namaste

    T

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