Standing there while an individual blathered forth with a montage of unwarranted criticism, I was dumbfounded…for a moment. The next thoughts that slashed through my mind were not of the Spirit, and let’s just say it was a good thing they did not reach my mouth. My flesh wanted so badly to defend myself, to prove the other person wrong, to get even. But, was that what I was supposed to do in that moment? Would my angry words change her opinion of me?
What are we supposed to do when we are disrespected? Whether it’s the position we hold or a personal attack–what does God expect of us in those moments?
1. He expects us to listen (James 1:19). He does not expect us to believe everything that is said, but He expects us to hear the person out. When John tells us to “try every spirit” (1 John 4:1), he is speaking in terms of false prophets, and in a narrower sense, we have to discern if the criticism being leveled at us is warranted and we need to change, or if it is a false accusation and can be deflected. God uses those moments to keep our pride in check and to help us to have a realistic view of ourselves (Philippians 2:1-4). There are times when the criticism is over-the-top, or the person may not have all the facts, but many times there is some truth to what the person is saying and we need to be willing to humble ourselves (1 Peter 5:5-7). And in those rare moments when they are completely wrong about you, let grace overflow, hear what they are saying and allow God to wash those insults off your soul and keep the chip off your shoulder (James 4:1-6).
2. He expects us to process (James 1:19-20). He does not expect us to say the first thing that pops into our head. He tells us “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” He wants us to withhold our response until we have processed the information, as well as our emotions, and we are able to give a Spirit-filled answer. For me, this sometimes takes days, because my brain processes facts and emotions separately. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling the person who has disrespected you,”I have heard what you have said, and I will take some time to process and pray about it and I will get back to you.” If you are in a situation where you must give an immediate answer, then prayer at that very moment is your best defense and you must be willing to follow the Spirit’s strong leading and only say what needs to be said at that moment (Luke 12:11-12).
3. He expects us to love (Luke 6:27-35). In the moment of being disrespected, the natural reaction is to retaliate. If we are being attacked, we lash out. If we are being hurt, wronged, or angered, we want the other party to have the same experience. But that is not God’s way. We change others’ minds about Christ by acting like Him, instead of ourselves. We exchange revenge for restoration–we extend hope for hate. Never an easy task, but when we act like Christ, instead of our culture, we may not change the circumstances, but we do change the outcome 1 Peter 4:13-14).
4. He expects us to remember. The entire first chapter of 1 Peter gives us insight into how we are to handle disrespect. Christ took an immeasurable amount of suffering to redeem us. Peter tells us, compared to that, our mindset needs to be to cease from sin and to spend the rest of our lives doing the will of God. God tells us, as much as is possible, live at peace with all men, do not return evil for evil, insult for insult, but live Godly (Romans 12:16-18).
The next time we find ourselves being disrespected, we need to act like Christ. Listen, love, and remember. Remember the cross, the One who stayed on that cross for you–and for your enemy as well– and endure as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). It’s time we abide by the cross, and not by our culture, when it comes to handling disrespect. With His mindset, we can change the world one conversation at a time.