It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.
1 Peter 2:15
The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.
It is painful when an already challenging circumstance is made even more difficult by the careless words of another. Rude comments often leave us feeling kicked when we’re already down. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can break our spirit.
A couple of summers ago, my husband was in the middle of a 6-month deployment and I ran out of diapers. Not a big deal. I decided to stop by Walmart on my way home from church to pick up more. My oldest three children stayed at church for the second service to attend youth group, so I took the younger five and headed off to the store.
While I was in the diaper aisle trying to find the right size, an incredulous older man stared at me with my two children standing beside me and three more riding in the cart. He scoffed and said, “You should get a TV and watch it more often.” I was mortified.
On what planet does a guy think that is an okay thing to say to a woman he’s never met—or say to anyone, for that matter? I couldn’t even look at him.
I was weighed down and tired from the demands of being a single parent to 8 awesome children and the worry of wondering if their father would even come home safely. I was already a little on the edge and I knew that if I responded to him at all I was likely to do something I would regret later.
I was so thankful my older children (who might have been able to discern the gist of his remark) were not with me. That would have added to my embarrassment. At least I only had my younger kids in tow. They were like, “Yeah! More TV!”
My husband was half a world away serving our country and fighting to defend this man’s freedom. This guy gets to enjoy his freedom of speech because courageous men and women like my husband preserve it for him. And what does he choose to do with this valuable freedom? He uses it to publicly cut down and humiliate the wife of the one who is protecting him. Of all the nerve!
I was so hurt and angry I didn’t even know how to respond. I just grabbed the diapers and walked away.
This isn’t the only time someone has cut me down with sharp words that were not well-planned. I am sure you have encountered your fair share as well.
The challenge is to respond without simply volleying the junk they’ve thrown at us back to them.
I have had plenty of opportunities to contemplate ways to respond to people who make unhelpful, hurtful, or downright rude comments. I want to share some of what I’ve learned over the years.
Here are 10 things to keep in mind the next time someone wounds you with rude comments or careless words.
- Give them the benefit of the doubt. Most likely, they think they are being helpful or funny. I know they aren’t funny. You know they aren’t funny. But sadly, they think they are funny. Sometimes it’s best to roll with it and let them think they’re cute.
- Usually, they don’t mean to cut you with their words. They are merely uninformed, unskilled, or having a tough day themselves.
- Love the other person in spite of their clumsy communication. Love covers a multitude of wrongs (Pr 10:12).
- If the comment comes from a person you know, 9 times out of 10 they really do really care about you even though the sting of their words tempts you to think otherwise.
- You get credit for being gracious when you let it go. It is your glory to overlook the offense (Pr 19:11).
- Often the enemy will attack us with his lies through the unwitting mouths of other people. Replace any destructive thoughts that have been planted in your mind with God’s truth. You don’t have to let what they said stick to you, especially if it’s not even true.
- Bless the people who say mean things to you or about you either with your words or actions (Romans 12:14).
- Give them the grace you wish they’d given you. Stop the cycle of bitterness. It’s not worth spending energy to keep it going (1 Thess 5:11).
- Pray for the person who hurt your feelings (Matt 5:44). It’s hard to stay upset at a person when you are asking God to touch their life. While you’re praying anyway, ask God to help you choose a response that will reflect well on Him. It’s nearly impossible to choose the best response when we are hurting. We need God to help us.
- Remember how it feels to be the recipient of careless words and take the time to deliberately plan your own words before releasing them from your mouth, especially when someone is having a hard day. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say going to feel loving to the other person?” If you can’t answer “yes”, maybe you should consider keeping quiet. As the Spanish proverb says, “Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”
The power of the tongue is life and death— those who love to talk will eat what it produces.
Proverbs 18:1, ISV
Will you choose to speak life to those around you, building them up and encouraging them?
Or will your words tear down, wound, and sting?
How will you choose to respond to the wounding words of others?
“Speak Life” by Toby Mac
To read other posts in this series, click the image below.
P.S. ~ No teens were harmed in the making of photos for this blog post. He volunteered. My boys love duct tape!