How Do You Handle Insults?November 22, 2020 - 12:00 am
“I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply” — Psalm 38:14
In honour of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.
What do you do when someone insults you?
If you’re like most of us, your instinct is probably to strike back with an equally, if not more stinging insult. However, as God-cantered people, we need to live above our natural instincts. We must live on a higher plane. In Psalm 38 David reveals how he handled the numerous insults hurled upon him throughout his lifetime. He wrote, “I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.”
How did David handle insults? He made no response, no matter how untrue or hurtful the insults. He made his ears deaf, his mouth mute.
Now, at first blush, it might seem like we are doing the wrongdoer a favour by letting him or her get away with hurtful behaviour. However, the truth is that when we allow someone else’s insults to hurt us by making us angry, spiteful, or resentful, truly, we are only hurting ourselves. We lower ourselves to their level and give credibility to their words.
Several years ago, an ad ran during the Super Bowl that went viral. It featured then-Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman, the third deaf player in the NFL. In the ad, Coleman related how he was told that he would never make it in professional sports due to his disability. As a child, he was picked on and called names. But, as the ad concludes, Coleman says, “I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.”
Thankfully, most of us aren’t deaf. But sometimes we have to act as if we are and shut out the condescending voices that tell us that we aren’t good enough. God thinks that we are more than enough, and His opinion is all that matters.
It’s not easy to shut out the negative and hurtful voices around us, but it’s essential for our success. When David went to fight the giant Goliath, he was just a young boy. His big brother Eliab took a stab at him and said, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle” (1 Samuel 17:28). Ouch. However, David didn’t let those hurtful words stop him. He went out to fulfil his God-ordained destiny and brought down the threatening giant.
So how should we handle the insults of others? Instead of retaliating, try prayer. Pray that God will protect us from other people’s hurtful words. Then, once we are safe in God’s shelter, pray for those who hurt us. Only hurting people hurt others. Close your ears, silence your mouth, but open your heart and pray.
Your turn: There is a Jewish prayer said every night before going to sleep in which we forgive anyone who may have hurt us during that day. Try formulating your own prayer of forgiveness and say it daily.