Sitcoms often show people tearing each other down. We laugh when we hear good jabs, but in real life, those jabs can wound. If a comment especially stings, we tend to remember it for years, even more than physical pain we have endured. We replay the words in our minds, dwelling on them. Our emotions latch on, and our self-worth suffers. Insults cut to the heart.

But our inner peace should not depend on another’s words. When I was a teenager, I was cussed at by a coworker when I simply asked her to pass me a straw. I was in tears, trying to figure out how I deserved that. My manager sent me to clean tables while she talked to her. The girl was pregnant and scared, and her feelings—which had nothing to do with me—made her blow up at me. People’s actions stem from their own mental state and circumstances. Yet in the moment, I only focused on how I was wronged. I had been treated unjustly. Maturity teaches us to take our eyes off ourselves and to see others the way Jesus does—lost and in need of a Savior.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:11 (ESV)

Jesus had compassion on people. He didn’t look for people that deserved his compassion. He looked for broken people who wanted wholeness. Our role as his church is to bring people to Jesus and to teach them his words, which bring healing.

When people use words to injure, they are probably hurting on the inside. They need compassion, even though they don’t deserve it. My sister-in-law often says, “Hurting people hurt people.” If we can overlook their rude behavior, we might see a wounded soul who needs God’s touch. Imagine a wounded animal that fights anyone who comes near. To help them, we must forgive their insult and pray for them. It’s hard to remain angry with someone when you pray for them.

…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:44b-45a (ESV)

Our inner peace should come from our relationship with the Lord. He loves us. He gives us strength. Even if the whole world turns against us, He will be our stronghold and our salvation. So his validation is the only one that matters. If we place this ultimate trust in anything else (like money), then we have an idol. People will fail us, so don’t look to them for your self-worth. Instead of being insulted or lashing back, choose to overlook the fault and pray for them.

The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.

Proverbs 12:16 (ESV)

It’s a choice.

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