Fr. Faber on Sarcasm


Source : Kindness by Faber, Frederick William, 1814-1863

…page 56-57

Men’s actions are very difficult to judge. Their real character depends in a great measure on the motives which prompt them, and those motives are invisible to us. Appearances are often against what we afterwards discover to have been deeds of virtue. Moreover, a line of conduct is, in its look at least, very little like a logical process. It is complicated with all manner of inconsistencies, and often deformed by what is in reality a hidden consistency. Nobody can judge men but God, and we can hardly obtain a higher or more reverent view of God than that which represents Him to us as judging men with perfect knowledge, unperplexed certainty, and undisturbed compassion. Now, kind interpretations are imitations of the merciful ingenuity of the Creator finding excuses for His creatures. It is almost a day of revelation to us when theology enables us to perceive that God is so merciful precisely because He is so wise ; and from this truth it is an easy inference that kindness is our best wisdom, because it is an image of the wisdom of God.

This is the idea of kind interpretations, and this is the use which we must make of them. The habit of judging is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on keeping it in check, and this check is to be found in kind interpretations. We must come to esteem very lightly our sharp eye for evil, on which, perhaps, we once prided ourselves as cleverness. It has been to us a fountain of sarcasm ; and how seldom since Adam was created has sarcasm fallen short of being a sin !

We must look at our talent for analysis of character as a dreadful possibility of huge uncharitableness. We should have been much better without it from the first. It is the hardest talent of all to manage, because it is so difficult to make any glory for God out of it. We are sure to continue to say clever things so long as we continue to indulge in this analysis ; and clever things are equally sure to be sharp and acid. Sight is a great blessing, but there are times and places where it is far more blessed not to see. It would be comparatively easy for us to be holy if only we could always see the character of our neighbours either in soft shade or with the kindly deceits of moonlight upon them. Of course, we are not to grow blind to evil, for thus we should speedily become unreal ; but we must grow to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil.

… page 73

Self-interest makes it comparatively easy for us to do that which we are well paid for doing. The great price which everyone puts on a little kind word makes the practice of saying them still easier. They become more easy, the more on the one hand that we know ourselves, and on the other that we are united to God. Yet what are these but the two contemporaneous operations of grace, in which the life of holiness consists ? Kindness to be perfect, to be lasting, must be a conscious imitation of God : sharpness, bitterness, sarcasm, acute observation, divination of motives — all these things disappear when a man is earnestly conforming himself to the image of Christ Jesus.

… page 82-83

Weak and full of wants as we are ourselves, we must make up our minds, or rather take heart, to do some little good to this poor world while we are in it. Kind words are our chief implements for this work. A kind-worded man is a genial man ; and geniality is power. Nothing sets wrong right so soon as geniality. There are a thousand things to be reformed, and no reform succeeds unless it be genial. No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm, crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.


Very good! I must admit in not having read any of Fr. Faber’s books but if this passage is any indication of his thinking then I am sure to profit greatly from reading his works.

Kindness does not mean weakness. Our Lord said “come to me for I am meek and humble of heart” He was strong as a lion when needed (e.g. against the hypocritical Pharisees) but with poor sinners He showed His mercy ready to forgive and ready to help men get to Heaven.

One of the most difficult things is to try to give people the benefit of the doubt and to try to always thing good of others. When we clearly see evil being promoted then we obviously do not turn a blind eye to that as Fr. Faber said but I think because we are living in such evil times, Traditional Catholics perhaps can be hyper-critical of everything instead of keeping their head and soberly analyzing everything around them. How do we keep from falling into the two extremes of indifference and hyper-criticism? Emotions run too high in today’s crisis.


I really enjoy this book, I have read through it several times. Quite enlightening.