Let me start off by providing John 3:5-6, 9-12:
Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
That sounds pretty heavy for just losing your temper against a jerk now and again, but let’s take a moment to think about this seriously. When we start insulting people, even for blatant stupidity, we turn ourselves into someone negative, someone who releases frustration and anger into the world. Someone like that is not what we consider a devoted Christian. Christians are meant to have patience, positivity, and to seize opportunities to praise God. We have a very clear cut path that isn’t bothered with judging, insulting or shunning others.
Yet we struggle with that. I really struggle with it, especially when I am insulted first. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m really sensitive to insults and implications that I’m stupid. That’s a brain ninja that stays put for a while and just festers. Even though I don’t treat other people that way when I’m in a discussion, it’s very hard for me not to hold onto that resentment and let off steam with friends, using every negative word that I believe is applicable to that person who said I was stupid. I do it with the intent of releasing stress and frustration so that I can move on. In actuality, I’m putting negativity into the world and indulging in behavior that does not benefit me or honor my Lord.
I can honestly say that it sucks to think that I have to reprogram myself not to identify insulting jackwagons as such to my friends who will always understand. My friends are awesome supporters that way, but I do them no favors by unleashing such negativity around them. Mind you, this does not negate the gift of discernment. It just reframes how we contribute this discernment. This is word that has often eluded me: Diplomacy.
In the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, the second definition for the word diplomacy is thus:
skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility.
How do you tell someone they’re wrong about everything, especially what they link about you, and they should kiss your rear end without arousing hostility? There’s a way. Mostly, the Irish know how to do it and it’s got a lot to do with a smile. Unfortunately, everybody deals with the same smile on the internet.
So how do you conjure diplomacy so you know what to say, when to say it, and always be in the right even if that means allowing someone to insult you without returning the sentiment?
Read a little farther in the same book, and it says:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
That doesn’t really tell you how to handle someone who’s calling you a dimwit for being right while they’re wrong, but it does stress the importance of really applying yourself to figuring it out. With prayer and a concentrated expansion of patience and tolerance, it just might be possible. Those who are diplomatic in the face of adversity stand to have the greatest gain from their words. They might not change the mind of the one who’s quarreling with them, but they can impress and influence the many who witness the discussion.
Who cares if one person calls me stupid when my reaction helps over a hundred people realize I am not stupid and am also more mature than to insult in return? Then my response to considered in how I present myself as a Christian, that shows the power and joy of Christ in my life. That’s what I call indirect evangelism and that’s my favorite.
John 3 is my new self-improvement project:
- Knowing when to just STFU
This is just as hard as it looks, but it’s worth it.