Responding to people with razor-sharp tongues

When someone offers “brutal honesty” in a way that disparages or demeans you…
Matthew 18:21-22
I recently came across this story from author, Joseph Marshall III:
A playground dispute in the fourth grade concluded with a barrage of epithets hurled
at me, each one more stinging than the other before. I was called every derogatory name
for Indians that two white fourth-grade classmates could remember. Stunned, I could
think of nothing equally hurtful to throw back.
That evening, still hurting from the insults, I told my grandfather about the incident.
“Words can hurt,” he said, “but only if you let them. They called you bad names. Were
you changed into the things they called you?” “No,” I replied. “You cannot forget what
they said any more than you cannot feel the wind when it blows. But if you learn to let
the wind blow through you, you will take away its power to blow you down. If you let the
words pass through you, without letting them catch on your anger or pride, you will not
feel them.
The Lakota Way, 12
I have heard people repeatedly say that we have become of nation of wimps as it relates to the use of language. One person recently told me that America has fallen prey to political correctness. “There’s no room for brutal honesty anymore,” said he. “Some people are simply too sensitive.”
On the one hand, I understand where this individual is coming from. A recent trend has emerged wherein one person becomes offended by the divergent views of another. The concept of agreeing to disagree has become passe`.
However, while it may be one thing to express one’s opinion, it’s entirely different matter to speak words that disparage or demean other persons, whether done so intentionally or unwittingly. Yet, people are people and the likelihood of running into someone with a razor-sharp tongue is rather high, nowadays. As Joseph Marshall’s grandfather stated, though, each of us has the power to allow harsh words to blow through us rather than stick to our soul.
Personally, I believe this is the message Jesus attempted to impress upon Peter. Jesus’ counsel to forgive an adversary “seventy-seven times” is the surest way to prevent our negative emotions from being hooked. In other words, we forgive not for the sake of the antagonist but for the peace and serenity of our own souls.
So, the next time you find yourself on the firing end of blow hard, remember the words of Marshall’s grandfather. “Let the words pass through you.” And be assured that as a follower of Christ no weapon formed against you need prevail.
-Pastor David
David Wells is the Senior Pastor of St. Paul Community United Methodist Church. He tries not to take things personally but it’s not always easy.  Contact Pastor David by email.  Learn more about St. Paul here.  We would love to have you worship with us Sundays at 10am.  Plan your visit here.