Insults are not fun to receive. But they are as much a challenge as they are painful. An insult is often like a line in the sand. When we are insulted we sometimes feel the need to defend ourselves. And on our worst days, we may feel the need to return an insult for an insult. This rarely ends well.
Here’s the thing… an insulting person doesn’t really appreciate a returned insult. Imagine that. An insulting person is a fool. So even the best returned insult would only impress wise people… if wise people were impressed with insults… which they aren’t. So, the best thing to do is probably let the insults roll off. What?!? Yes. You’ve heard the term, “like water off of a duck’s back”? Well, that’s how we should be with insults.
How does water roll off of a duck's back? Well, the preen gland at the base of the tail produces oil that spreads and covers the birds’ outer coat so that water forms droplets on, but does not permeate the feathers. Ducks preen themselves to bring that oil up their feathers, making them sort of waterproof.
We can make ourselves sort of ‘insult-proof’. I know. I know. You can’t stop someone from insulting you. But you can determine whether or not it gets under your skin… or feathers. You determine how you will respond to insults today. A wise writer in the Bible said, “A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible.” (Proverbs 12:16) Whoever ignores an insult is sensible? That is probably the last thing you want to do (ignore an insult), but the first thing you want to be (sensible). Sometimes to be the person you want to be you need to do the last thing you want to do.
Throughout the Bible we find images of oil. Oil is used in anointing people who are called to special tasks. Oil is also representative of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit in us. And if we will allow Him to coat us, the insults of the world can roll off “like water off a duck’s back.” We should spend time making sure we are covered with the oil of the Holy Spirit so that we can become ‘insult-proof’.
Sometimes it feels good to shut down an insult with a better insult. But it does not end well. We weren’t created to match insult for insult, but to exhibit grace where and when it is least expected. The apostle Peter, who was known to be quick with his tongue told the early Christians this, and it may be a good admonition for today as you encounter insulting people, “all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.