Early in my ministry I encountered a church member who thought it was OK to say whatever he thought about me as the pastor. One day in a church meeting he spoke up and said something very demeaning.
I was shocked. Ironically his wife was extremely sensitive and would get offended at the slightest issues.
Stunned and not knowing what to do, I let it slide. But in retrospect, I am convinced that it would have been better to have addressed the unkind words. By not doing so he got the wrong message – that his behavior was acceptable. A friend later told me that he wished that he had spoken up as well.
It’s not that I was above criticism. The problem was the place and the tone in which he expressed his displeasure.
We can’t control what others will say but, we can learn how to respond well.
King David also had to learn to deal with negative comments.
2 Samuel 16:5-7 says: “As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. ‘Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!’ he shouted at David.”
6 Strategies to Handle Insults:
1. Bear the Insults and Refuse to Retaliate
“And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, ‘Look, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone.’” (2 Samuel 16:11a)
Like David we should:
2. Take Some Time to Consider Three Questions
Are these constructive or destructive comments?
How would God want me to respond?
What can I learn from this experience?
3. Respond Properly to Unkind Words
Remember: “A gentle answer turns away rage, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Plan to speak to the person in private.
Don’t gossip about them.Thank them and request they share future concerns with you privately.
Make them aware of your feelings and perspective.If there is no common ground, amicably agree to disagree.
Forgive them even if they don’t deserve it, request it, or receive it.
4. Remember God is in Control
David said “and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.” (2 Samuel 16:11b)
David had confidence that God was still in control and even Shimei’s cursing was under God’s prompting and control.
Through insults God may be:
It is tempting to forget that God is sovereign when we are insulted. But He is still on His throne and working all things together for good (Romans 8:28)!
5. Live for an Audience of One
We may be offended because our self esteem is based on admiration from others.
But living to please people is futile:
Everyone has their own opinion.
Some people are never happy.
Our focus should be on pleasing God, not people. “What I want is God’s approval! Am I trying to be popular with people? If I were still trying to do so, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 GNB)
6. Trust God for Restoration
David said: “It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Samuel 16:12)
David responded correctly and trusted God to reward him someday.
God is always able to repair the harm that has been done. We must pray, wait, trust and watch for the Lord to work.
Remember that God is:
The “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon said, “Get your friend to tell you your faults, or better still welcome an enemy who will watch you keenly and sting you savagely. What a blessing such an irritating critic will be to a wise man. What an intolerable nuisance to a fool.”
If you found this post helpful, you might also benefit from my blog “3 Steps to Overcoming Betrayal and Building Trust Again.”