My daughter just went away to college in the city that has been ranked as The Meanest City in America. Not only is this city the meanest city, but it’s the meanest city two years running. I recalled this city’s internet notoriety after we hung up from her phone call last night.
Many people are stressed and miserable, carrying around heavy burdens. The frazzled and inaccurate waitress may have a stack of bills at home and a single income. The cold and indifferent cashier at the grocery store may have a rough home life and no one to encourage her.
Our reaction to rudeness can be to give it back. That’s not what Jesus teaches. He tells us in Matthew 5:39 “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.”
Turning the other cheek is a radical and counterintuitive response to meanness. Still, Jesus said it, right there in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wants us to rise above the rudeness that is a way of life for so many people. In Matthew 5:16, He told the crowds, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Turning the other cheek is an example of how to shine.
Turning the other cheek is a radical and counterintuitive response to meanness.
6 Ways to Rise Above Rudeness
1. Loosen your time constraints. Be practical and prevent personal stress. Allow margins; leave a few minutes early, allow time between commitments for delays and decompressing. Say “no” if things seem too tight or too overwhelming. We are simply ruder when we are in a rush. Don’t add to everyone’s stress by rushing them to accommodate you.
2. Don’t run on empty. Our patience runs thin quickly when we are tired, hungry, thirsty or uncomfortable. Simply take care of yourself and you will find that you are a nicer person. Our skin seems less “thin” when we are rested, fueled and ready to face our days.
Simply take care of yourself and you will find that you are a nicer person.
When verbal assaults are direct, consider that you may be experiencing unkindest that is being passed on from the perpetrator’s experiences of receiving unkindness. This is not always the case, of course. But we can't know, and the benefit of the doubt is a gift to give someone that keeps peace in these situations.
4. Represent God in your response. Act as if you have a “Representative of Jesus” t-shirt on. Undeserved kindness is powerful. Jesus blew people away with His compassionate response to their needs. Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Harassed people are sometimes unpleasant. Jesus ministered to them, regardless.
5. Beware of a sense of entitlement. It is easy to become annoyed and unpleasant when we feel we haven’t been given what we feel we deserve, are owed, or expected. In Mark 9:35 Jesus says, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” If we list the last few times that we were provoked to respond rudely to anyone, it’s likely that at least some of the time it was because we were indignant.
If we are Christians, we should be fine with being last.
6. Decide to be a blessing. It is very gratifying to be intentional about being a blessing to people. When we understand that God truly acts and blesses people when we ask Him too, it’s like we have the awesome ability to generously shower unseen treats on people as we walk by them. Luke 6:28 tells us to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Blessing mean people diffuses the enemy’s influence in any situation.
Proverbs 25:21-22 tells us,
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.”
Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” As God’s people, we should be steadfast, regardless of the unguarded moodiness in people around us. I Corinthians 15:58 begins with, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”
We need to decide to rise above other people’s bad behavior, and we need to be determined to be self-controlled about our responses to their bad behavior. I Peter 5:8 links self-control and giving room for the devil. It says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Refusing to play the bad behavior game keeps us from losing it. Being alert keeps us from being pulled into it.
We are free to not go down with another person’s ship! We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, according to Colossians 3:15 to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Thank you, Jesus, that we are free to be joyful in all circumstances, and that you have entrusted us to be Your light!