There are mean people in the world. I love Jesus and I want to love his people and my neighbors well, but that doesn’t change the facts: some people are really just not nice.
Sometimes these people are strangers whose meanness only reaches you through computer screens and Facebook messages, but sometimes they’re also family members, close friends, coworkers, or people you bump into at the grocery store. We can’t always avoid mean people, as much as we might like to.
They comment on our blog posts with harsh feedback, they make comments under their breath across the living room, they use fighting words on social media sites, and they call us names from the other side of the dinner table out of anger.
When people are mean to me, I’m often tempted to be mean back. When I’m called an ugly name, my brain instantly lists a dozen others I could retort with. When hurtful words hit me, I want to respond with words that will hurt back. It’s the classic “They started it!” feeling that I use to justify my anger and indignation… but I know that’s an immature response to meanness that does not reflect the Lord’s heart well.
So, how do we deal with hurtful attacks when they come? What do we do when mean people lash out and hurt us?
Jennifer Dukes Lee recently wrote “How to Deal with People Who Try to Bring You Down” for (in)courage and shared three simple pieces of advice:
- “First, allow yourself to feel the pain.”If you are hurt by harsh words or an unkind action from another person, it is okay to acknowledge those feelings. “We should not ignore the pain we feel,” writes Lee, “but we don’t have to let that pain fuel a negative response.”
- “Second, refuse to seek revenge.” In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” As Christians, revenge should never be our response when we are wronged or hurt. “Sometimes,” Lee says, “we simply have to walk away from mean people, which takes a great amount of strength, dignity, and courage.” Fighting back when we are wronged only continues the cycle of meanness instead of putting a gentle stop to it with our love in place of anger.
- “Third, be kind.” Kindness is not the same as “we will be doormats,” Lee explains. “We can be grace-filled even in the face of nastiness.” 2 Corinthians 6:3-6 says, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses… in purity, understanding, patience and kindness.”
“God is not asking us to do anything he hasn’t done before.
God loved us first. He loved me (and I am certainly unthankful and wicked) and he loves you.
And he has done this without asking for anything in return; in fact he’s embraced us with one hand while wiping our sins out with the other.
If there was ever a reason to love your enemies, do good to them and give to them without expecting anything in return it is because God is kind to people who are unthankful and wicked - people like me and you.”
There are more than 30 places in the Bible that mention kindness -- we’ve gathered up 40 verses here that remind us just how important it is to show compassion and love to everyone we come in contact with. If you’re struggling to respond well when you are hurt, maybe write a few of these down and stick them where you’ll see them (such as on your car’s dashboard or by your computer at work).
The next time we are hurt by a mean person, let’s respond with kindness. Let’s turn the other cheek as Jesus commands, and break the cycle of meanness by refusing to seek revenge or be mean back.
We can be kind even to the mean people, and we will show them Jesus through our humble love.
Photo credit: Unsplash
Publication date: January 19, 2017
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com