A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. Proverbs 12:16
Many times, when people insult us, there is a lot of pain, hurt, anger and mess going on underneath the surface in that person’s life. Often, if we can extend grace, we may just be able to salvage the relationship or avoid a big fight. Taking every insult personally and trying to repay that person back with an even bigger insult does not honor Christ. And it doesn’t bring people closer to us or closer to God.
IN THE PHARMACY
I have been working in retail pharmacy since I was a pharmacy student in 1992. I can definitely attest to the fact that when you work with the public, you are going to be insulted sooner or later. It doesn’t matter how kind, compassionate, competent and caring you are.
I have learned that insults usually come from something difficult that is going on in that person’s life:
- he is in a lot of pain
- she is a drug addict, and I won’t let her have her narcotics early
- he has very low blood sugar and needs to eat something quickly
- she has unrealistic expectations about what pharmacists are legally allowed to do and is unfamiliar with all the laws and policies I am required to follow
- he has a dying wife at home on hospice and he is taking out his frustrations and anger and feeling of being out of control on me
- she has been up for 5 nights with a sick baby
- he has a lot of anger in him all the time and is just ready to dump rage on anyone he happens to come across
- she has a mental illness and has not taken her medication properly and isn’t thinking clearly
- he has a family emergency going on
- she has had a really bad day
- he has early dementia and his personality is changing
- she is in perimenopause and her hormones are out of control
- he is running very late to pick up his son from daycare
- her mom talks to her this way all the time, so it seems “normal”
Sometimes, in the pharmacy, I know the back-story and that helps me to respond appropriately with grace, compassion and understanding. Sometimes I still have to be firm and not give in when someone wants me to do something illegal. Sometimes I don’t know the back-story – but now I am able to deduce that I am missing information when someone blows up at me and I am usually able to not take the insult personally.
In retail pharmacy, we are trained to
- strive to give the best customer service even when patients get very upset.
- listen so that the person feels heard before we try to swoop in and “fix” things.
- respond with concern to a patient’s complaint and to do whatever we can to make things right.
Isn’t that what we need to do in marriage and other relationships, too?
I have learned that certain situations make it much more likely for someone to blurt out an insult. When a person is:
- in pain
- overwhelmed with stress
- trying to rush too much and running late
- out of fellowship with God
- cherishing sin in his/her heart
- having conflict with someone else
- worried or afraid
- feeling misunderstood
- feeling disrespected or unloved
Many times, if a man suddenly snaps at his girlfriend – I suggest that she ask something like Dr. Emerson Eggerichs suggests in Love and Respect “Honey, that felt unloving, did I come across disrespectfully just now?”
If a guy seems fine and all the sudden gets really angry or shuts down – MANY TIMES, he is feeling disrespected by something you just did or said.
But sometimes he might be having stress at work or some other issue going on. It may have nothing to do with you at all.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
RESPONDING TO INSULTS
If we respond with more insults – that is going to be a huge fight.
I have found more success with:
- listening – making sure the person feels “heard”
- asking gentle questions
- waiting for the person to calm down
- asking the person to please treat me with respect so that we can work together (with a particularly hateful patient in the pharmacy – that actually worked wonders. She and I were great friends after went out into the waiting area and sat beside her. I calmly and politely called her out on her very disrespectful attitude towards me and I respectfully asked her to treat me with respect so that I could help her.)
- asking with concern, “Is something bothering you?”
- asking respectfully, “What can I do to help?”
- depending on the situation, sometimes humor can diffuse the anger and the insult
There are times we must address the insult.
When I am in the pharmacy and a drug addict hands me a forged prescription, I have to refuse to fill it. There WILL be conflict. I try to keep it as low key and respectful as possible. I try to maintain a pleasant tone of voice. But I cannot cave in that situation just because the person is upset. In fact, I have to call the police if someone is attempting to get a prescription illegally.
Sometimes what seems like an insult, may actually be constructive criticism that we would be wise to listen to – we must listen very carefully, even if the criticism is presented in a harsh way – “Does God want me to hear this message?” “Is there something I need to change?”
Sometimes we must gently, respectfully but firmly respond and engage in the issue.
Sometimes, it is wise just to let the insult go.
God does not say “Never be angry.” But He does say
- “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Ephesians 4:26
- “For a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.” James 2:20
If I am to be angry, may it only be about the things that make God angry.
FROM NINA ROESNER “The Respect Dare”:
- “While being slow to anger, slow to speak and quick to listen – actively choose to extend grace to your (man)…. Actively choose not to take something personally.”
- Search the Bible or online in a Bible reference about God’s anger and learn to be angry about what God is angry about and what it means to have righteous anger vs. human anger that tends to lead us into sin.
If you are interested in a man who has a very volatile temper – please be careful! Most men with major anger issues get WORSE after marriage, not better. Use great caution before marrying a man who cannot control his temper. You cannot change him. God can change him. But do not go into marriage assuming he will change for the better. However he treats other people when he becomes enraged – his mother, the waitress at a restaurant, the customer service person at Wal-mart – is how he will eventually treat you when he is angry. Seek godly counsel before uniting yourself with a man who cannot control anger and rage – especially if he becomes violent.