Beating Back My Inner Snark

Beating Back My Inner Snark

Reblogged from: Herald Magazine’s “Connect | Engage | Inspire”
by Sheyne Benedict – Eugene, Oregon, USA

I have two confessions. My first: I have an inner Snark. Yep, you read that right. That’s Snark with a capital “S.” My Snark is a running, internal commentator. My Snark communicates primarily through sarcasm, internal eye rolling, and a lot of cynicism.

I work for the Judicial Department with people identified as drug addicted. So my Snark sounds something like this:
A client will say, “I swear Ms. Benedict, I’ll walk right over to see my parole officer as soon as I’m out of your office.”
And my inner Snark says, “Sure you will, Johnny, probably right after you score a baggie on the street.”

“No, really, I promise Ms. Benedict. This time I’m gonna stay clean.”

“Oh, uh huh. Just like the last three times.”

Now in all fairness, the words always stay in my head. But my clients are not stupid. They can see skepticism on my face. Even worse, once those thoughts are in my head they gain traction. Each time someone has a setback or new charges, the snarky commentary becomes stronger. It is being “proven right.” But does being “right” about people help me uphold and restore the worth of those people?

My inner Snark started changing in 2010 during Southern Oregon’s Caravan Youth Venture for Christ. On the trip, the kids performed a skit about the Worth of All Persons. It examined how the labels of addict, homeless, questioning, or marginalized diminish the worth of people. And it focused on how God has placed the ultimate labels of valuable and worthy on each of us.

The kids worked with this skit more than six months. Each time they performed it my inner Snark had to do a little more self-examination.

I began asking myself, “If I tell the kids God views all people as having inestimable and equal worth—equal worth—then what do I say to the woman who has lost her children to the state because of meth addiction?

“If I proclaim the Worth of All Persons on Sunday, how do I treat the convicted burglar with track marks on his arms on Monday?”

Now, as a state employee I do not talk about my faith community or my relationship with God in my workplace. But over time I found myself in court with my clients, saying silent little prayers.

“Hey, God, pay attention to this one.”

“Keep this one on your radar.”

I wish I could tell you an amazing story about how praying for a specific client made some profound difference, but I think God is subtler than that. But those prayers made a difference in my life.

My inner Snark is not dead. But the prayers are becoming louder than my Snark. And the mantra “Worth of All Persons” is becoming a Snark mute button. I push it more and more often.

I am not proud of my Snark, but my second confession is even harder for me to acknowledge.

If God creates in all people inestimable worth, then that means for me, too. Wow! This worthiness business extends even to me. Which is crazy, because I know I’m not worthy.

An excerpt of a poem, “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson, speaks eloquently on individual worth:

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God… We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

Our faith community’s enduring principle of Worth of All Persons has the following explanation: “God wants all people to experience wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships.”

If I am not working toward such wholeness in my own life, how can I help others achieve it? If I do not uphold my own worth, how do I uphold the worth of others? If I do not put effort into the wholeness and health of my own body, mind, spirit, and relationships, how can I help others do so?

I have not found easy answers to these questions. But I know I have made progress. More importantly, I am willing to be a work in progress.

My challenge to you comes in two parts. First, ask yourself: “Because I am worthy, how will I treat myself today?”

Second, ask yourself: Because they are worthy, how will I treat others today?”

4 thoughts on “Beating Back My Inner Snark

  1. Judith says:

    Sheyne, your story/testimony became the focus (along with the 23rd Psalm) of our communion worship July 1 in Walnut Creek, California. Theme was “Do Not Fear.” I quickly realized I needed to dump my previous plans. Your human, ‘where the rubber hits the pavement’ experience spoke powerfully to me, old & new members, and our new inquirers.

    Thank you for being vulnerable, for trusting us with your story.

  2. Barbara Carter says:

    Sheyne, I too have an inner snark. As I read your offering, I felt my snark resonate with yours. Thank you for the image of a mute button.

  3. David Brock says:

    The values of the gospel being lived out in places where life in all its glory and its mess truly happens! That’s where we really test whether it is authentic or not. Great reflections, Sheyne. Honest. Your light shines here! Marianne Williamson and you speak wisdom for all of us. Good to hear from you. Not since the Evangelist, Teacher, and Young Adult gathering in Portland back in 2007, I believe. We are now much closer to you and your folks, though. Just over the mountain in Redmond! Take care and tell your folks, hi!

  4. Judith says:

    Sheyne’s story is really useful & insightful. A real world problem common to many of us.
    And don’t we like to tell how what we did had a big, satisfying result in someone else’s life. Sheyne may hear a few results 10, 20, 30 yrs later. I know her positive attitude IS making a difference.
    Prayer in schools, the workplace will always be there when we have believers. As a kid I prayed silently in school, short, targeted & sincere…not all were about grades! In our diverse society, respect and humility are ever more important. An emergency responder to an auto crash site knew our teenage child was seriously injured. As they waited for helicopter transport, he/she asked, “May I say a prayer for you?” which my daughter gratefully accepted.

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