Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.
— Proverbs 12:16
I’ve often thought that the old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a bit ambitious. Harsh words, name-calling, and insults certainly do hurt, especially when they come from people we thought we could trust. It never feels good to be insulted, even by a stranger.
So our instinct is often to stand up for ourselves and to push back on an insult. People shouldn’t treat us that way, we think—and in most cases they probably shouldn’t.
But this Proverb points us in the opposite direction. Why? Why would it be foolish to react with annoyance right away, and prudent to overlook an insult? Wouldn’t that just enable people to keep hurting us and others?
Let’s be clear: It is important that inappropriate and hurtful behavior is properly addressed. But this does not mean that the way to react is to fire back with the same kind of behavior.
Remember Jesus, whom the prophets foretold would be “despised and rejected. . . . Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3).
Jesus was able to overlook hundreds—maybe even thousands—of insults, jeers, and rejections because he knew who he was, what he was called to do, and how much the Father loved him.
Can we do the same?
Father, help me to live in your love and to remember who I am in you, no matter what people say. Help me to find strength in you. Amen.