Sorry Charlie: Our Joy in the Failure of Others

A year or so ago I was sitting down for coffee with my pastor Tal. I had some problems that probably had something to do with a girl or one of those other things that gives me problems. Wait- no, it was a girl. Anyhow, Tal’s advice that day has stuck close by me and I remember it almost every morning. What did he say?


Nobody confuses joy with sarcasm. You are addicted to sarcasm. That is how you interact with the outside world.


I started to argue with him but the first five thoughts I had were dripping with pure-cane sarcasm. He was right. Some of us run to alcohol when we are afraid. Others run to drugs. Others shop too much. Others run to pornography. I run to sarcasm, and, just to be clear, there is absolutely no difference between any of these medications beside the label on the outside of the bottle. Sarcasm is deadly and if you doubt that, you should pick up the only book of the bible written by a physical blood relative of Jesus. My copy of the book of James has a lot of dust on it because I tend to feel really, really guilty when I read it.


Joy and cynicism are not cousins. They are enemies. It is high time we listen to Tal’s advice on this one. Nobody confuses joy and sarcasm. The antithesis to the message of Jesus is to rejoice in the destruction of others but we, as leaders of the body of Christ, are the first to post blog after blog of snarky, self-inflated opinions. We use twitter and facebook as our own soapboxes to slap around the very people we are called to love.


Joy and Cynicism

A year ago last November, our nation has seen Tiger Woods exposed in his sexual addiction and the body of Christ mocked. We rejoiced in his failure and demanded that he apologize. The only thing that distinguished us from our neighbors is that we could quote that old favorite “beware your sin will find you out”- as long as it is your sin and not mine, that is.


We are the ones called to weep with those who weep and the only tears we could muster were tears of joy. Tiger, as it turns out, was not any better than we were the whole time. Time to break out the snarky comments and drive sycophants to our blogs, right? We all bear guilt in this because there is a darkness inside each one of us that loves to see the rich, famous, beautiful and successful fall flat on their faces.


Or what about Rob Bell? How can we possibly take delight in the conviction that a brother has stumbled upon something we believe is toxic? Is that the love that defines us as the body?


Perhaps the most obvious recent example of our witty abandonment of the gospel is the way we have reacted to Charlie Sheen’s most recent evidence of a tailspin. Tiger-blood? Warlocks? Winning? This guy has really lost his mind. And what is our reaction? Cheap laughs.


The old scholastics used to pointlessly and endlessly debate the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin. Today we distinguish between gossip and a “good-natured ribbing.” A man is destroying himself in front of us and we take this opportunity to assure ourselves that we are at least not as bad as Charlie Sheen. Could it be that we cannot see our reflection in the mirror because of the slight obstruction in our eyes?


In blinding ourselves to our shared brokenness with Tiger, Rob and Charlie, we have sold ourselves short. We have only momentarily numbed the pain we need to feel for our fellow man. The substitution of cynical sarcasm for prayerful pain will rob us of the life Jesus came to give us. Sarcasm is a pathetic substitute for joy. G.K. Chesterton put it like this: Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.[1]


What if we prayed Micah 7:8 for those we could easily mock?

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;

when I fall, I shall rise;

when I sit in darkness,

the Lord will be a light to me.


Jesus is the one who can make the fallen rise. He is the one who can make the broken whole. He is the one who can bring light to the darkness. He is the one who can bring life to the dead. He is the one who can bring joy to the cynics like you. And me.


Will we once again take the hard road Jesus offers or will we settle for still more cheap shots?



For a great article on Charlie Sheen and our action as the body of Christ, I’d recommend Greg Stier’s article:

[1] Orthodoxy 169.


2 responses to “Sorry Charlie: Our Joy in the Failure of Others”

  1. What a powerful word brother. This hits home with me as I tend to lean towards sarcasm because it seems easier to cope with things. These things have been heavy on me and your words are timely. I think you are spot on in that we realize deep down that we are just like these people in many ways (even if we can’t or don’t articulate that) so when we see their downfall we do think, “At least I’m not that bad.” It makes us feel better about ourselves, which you are right on, does not reveal the gospel in our lives.

    1. Thanks Josh, yeah I’m right with you on that. So much easier said than done, but then again, what isn’t?

      Good to hear from you, buddy.

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