Personal insults–they infect conversations whether in person or on social media or in group settings. They occur in families, and among friends, and even from strangers. And often they come out of the blue when we are least expecting them. And they are meant to hurt, intimidate, and humiliate whoever is the target of them, especially when the insult “hits below the belt.”
So how do we respond when a personal insult is targeted at us? And what is our initial response? Shock, anger, humiliation? How about rage, or striking back?
That’s the response they are looking for, waiting for, hoping for. So don’t give it to them. That is the best response.
As I was researching this topic online, I came across an article titled, “Ad Hominem: When People Use Personal Attacks in Arguments,” (author’s name not mentioned), that states the following:
An ad hominem argument is a personal attack against the source of an argument, rather than against the argument itself. Essentially, this means that ad hominem arguments are used to attack opposing views indirectly, by attacking the individuals or groups that support these views.
Ad hominem arguments can take many forms, from basic name-calling to more complex rhetoric. For example, an ad hominem argument can involve simply insulting a person instead of properly replying to a point that they raised, or it can involve questioning their motives in response to their criticism of the current state of things.
Ad hominem arguments are common in both formal and informal discussions on various topics, so it’s important to understand them. As such, in the following article you will learn more about ad hominem arguments, see what types of them exist, and understand what you can do to respond to them properly….
A basic example of an ad hominem argument is a person telling someone “you’re stupid, so I don’t care what you have to say”, in response to hearing them present a well-thought position. This is the simplest type of fallacious ad hominem argument, which is nothing more than an abusive personal attack, and which has little to do with the topic being discussed….
There are various types of ad hominem arguments, each of which involves a different way of attacking the source of an opposing argument. These include, most notably, “poisoning the well,” “the credentials fallacy,” “the appeal to motive,” “the appeal to hypocrisy,” “tone policing,” “the traitorous critic fallacy,” “the association fallacy,” and “the abusive fallacy.” (Quote source here. Each of those types are discussed at length in the article.)
We’ve all been in this situation. Someone gets very angry with you and insults you for no understandable reason. Sometimes, it may be the result of an unintentional mistake you made. Other times, you may just be the unlucky person with bad timing. Either way, the insult is completely unjustified.
I know my first instinct is to say something insulting back, but it has to be just right. It has to be a perfect zinger that expresses exactly what I’m feeling and hurt the other person as deeply as they hurt me. You know, it has to be the perfect comeback line.
Fortunately for me, I am not one of those people who is quick on her feet when trying to immediately get back at someone. Yet, that doesn’t mean I haven’t come up with something before to hurl at the other person. How do I usually feel after I do this? I don’t feel so great about it!
As Christians, we are taught not to pay back insult with insult. Instead, we are taught to pray for them and ask God to bless them. It is not easy at times as emotions can certainly get the better of us. Yet, I know my response not only plays a role in how the other person will feel but also how I will feel.
Many times, someone’s behavior towards us may have nothing to do with us personally, especially when from a stranger. Stopping to pray for them gives me perspective. They may be having the worst day of their life and need prayer. I don’t need to add to their heartache even if I’m feeling offended.
The same can be said if I know the person well. An angry response certainly doesn’t solve anything or make the situation better. In fact, it just stirs up more anger for both parties. While a kind response may not immediately resolve the situation, prayer for the person who offended me also calms my spirit. I can place my stress and anxiety about the situation in God’s hands. I know He will work in both our lives to meet both our needs.
We inherit a blessing when we treat others with respect and when we shine as an example of a life changed by Christ.
And in answer to the question, “What did Jesus mean when he instructed us to turn the other cheek?” on GotQuestions.org, the following answer is provided:
In Matthew 5:38–39, Jesus says, “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.” The concept of “turning the other cheek” is a difficult one for us to grasp. Allowing a second slap after being slapped once does not come naturally.
In the section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He commands us to turn the other cheek, He addresses the need for true transformation, versus mere rule-keeping. It’s not enough to obey the letter of the law; we must conform to the spirit of the law as well.
Much of the material surrounding Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek complements the nature of His coming, which was characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners. At the same time, Jesus affirms the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, He tells us to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us (Matthew 5:41) and to love and pray for our enemies instead of holding enmity against them (verse 44). In summary, Jesus is saying we need to be pure inside and out and as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.
A word about the “slap” that Jesus says we should endure. Jesus here speaks of personal slights of any kind. The slap (or the “smiting,” as the KJV has it) does not have to involve literal, physical violence. Even in our day, a “slap in the face” is a metaphor for an unexpected insult or offense. Did someone insult you? Let him, Jesus says. Are you shocked and offended? Don’t be. And don’t return insult for insult. Turn the other cheek.
Matthew Henry’s comment on this verse is helpful: “Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort” (Concise Commentary, entry for Matthew 5:38).
Turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses. He was not setting government foreign policy, and He was not throwing out the judicial system. Crimes can still be prosecuted, and wars can still be waged, but the follower of Christ need not defend his personal “rights” or avenge his honor.
There was a time in history when a man would feel compelled to protect his honor against one who slandered him or otherwise besmirched his character. The offended party would challenge the offender to a duel. Swords, firearms, or other weapons were chosen, and the two enemies would face off. In most cases, senseless bloodshed ensued. Samuel Johnson wrote in favor of the practice of dueling: “A man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.” The problem is that “invasions of character” are exactly what Jesus told us to tolerate in Matthew 5:38. Turning the other cheek would have been a better option than dueling, and it would have saved lives.
Retaliation is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Turning the other cheek requires help from on high. Responding to hatred with love and ignoring personal slights display the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and may afford the chance to share the gospel.
Jesus was, of course, the perfect example of turning the other cheek because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him. Instead, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). (Quote source here.)
I’ll end this post with the words from 1 Peter 3:9—Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called…
So that you . . .
May inherit . . .
A blessing. . . .
YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac: