The Insight of "Insult"
As you read the Proverbs, you will see time and again that the wise are open to ridicule, correction, and instruction. The foolish, not so. Scripture also provides guidance for how to approach the task of correcting or instructing another individual. Paul explains to Timothy that “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). While this is a directive relating specifically to interactions with those outside of the Church, it has practical implications for interactions with believers as well. Instruction driven by impatience or anger, while perhaps wise in substance, can often be hurtful and unfruitful. And as with every other area of our sanctification, developing a biblical understanding of how to correct each other is an ongoing process.
Yet, as the process continues, there are bound to be days when patience and gentleness are absent in delivery. And there will be times when we are the recipient of such correction rather than the giver of correction. In these cases, the instruction may sound and feel more like an insult than instruction. I would argue, though, that this does not mean the instruction can or should be disregarded immediately. At times, there is insight to be found in insult.
To be clear, there are plenty of examples of insult that should be viewed as nothing but insult. I do not refer to such remarks. If we try to find a nugget of truth or encouragement in every insult thrown our way, I fear we may become more discouraged than when we first received it. In these cases, the most encouraging thing may very well be to simply acknowledge the falsehood of the remark and find ourselves secure in our identity in Christ.
However, in situations when poorly given instruction feels more like an insult, there is wisdom in dwelling on the affront-like correction, not because it is affront-like but because it is correction. And, though the correction given may also be unnecessary or uncalled for in the moment (which can, in itself, feel like an insult), acknowledging our sinful tendencies that always show up can help us apply the correction to future situations when the correction is called for but may not be offered
Proverbs 12:16 says:
“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”
Ignore the biting insults of others when they have nothing to offer you in correction. Look to Christ and find rest in His approval which will always trump the disapproval of others. But if correction may be found in an insult, pull it out and take note of it, learn from it, and then throw the rest away. And, if you really want to get the most out of an insult, talk it out with that individual. Particularly within the body, a willingness to express your hurt brought on by a remark sooner rather than later may lead to helpful correction not just for you but for the other person as well. And whenever these situations can lead to further sanctification of both individuals, that’s a glorious win.
Travis Oberholtzer is a recent graduate of Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA with a BA in worship arts. As a singer/songwriter, Travis writes hymns for congregational use and now blogs at See How Worthy. He will begin his M. Div. studies at Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary this Fall.