A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.Proverbs 12:16 (NLT)
My dad was a respiratory therapist for the bulk of his career. Essentially, he helped people to breathe better. Usually, his patients were those who had lung cancer, advanced age, or lung issues brought upon by years and years of smoking cigarettes. It was the latter that he met one day in the hospital. We’ll call the patient Larry. Larry had been harassing the nurses, doctors, orderlies, and basically anyone who walked into his room. He would curse at them, call them names, belittle them. Many staff recoiled at the thought of entering Larry’s room because they knew that they would be subject to some vile verbal abuse. Then came my dad’s turn to serve Larry, who had been a life-long smoker and was dying from emphysema. (His lungs were scarred from smoking to a point that they could no longer pass oxygen effectively to the rest of the body.) Larry saw my balding, slightly overweight father walk through his doorway and let fly with every insult he could think of. My dad had a couple of choices. He could yell back at Larry and call him nasty things, too. He could ignore Larry and not say a word. But, my dad chose option number three – humility. He responded with something like, “How did you know my nicknames? Did the nurses tell you?” Larry’s response, “Ooooh. I’m gonna like you.”
As you’ve probably experienced, it can be very difficult not to fire back at someone when they are insulting you. Our blood pressure rises. The veins in our neck and forehead begin to bulge. Suddenly, insults we can use in reply come to mind, and they begin to work their way down to our mouths. We want to fight back. But, here’s the trick. There is no good that can come from trading insults. We must rise above the insults.
There is a saying that goes something like this, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, we need to pause and look at the reasons why someone is lashing out at us. When we do, we will see the pain they are experiencing. My dad saw a dying man who was bitter at the world for the fact that his life was going to end earlier than he wanted. As a result, he was taking out his anger on the very people who were trying to give him a few more years of life.
When you are insulted in life, pause, take a breath. Stay calm. Rise above. Pray that God will show you the hurt that is causing them to hurt others. Respond with humility and love.