When Others Are Unkind—How Will You React?
HAS anyone said or done something unkind to you today? Perhaps at work or at school someone was rude, making some insulting or demeaning remark. Or, while you were shopping, a person may have crowded in ahead of you in line.
Similar things may occur in one’s own family. One member may speak slightingly or disrespectfully of another. Or he may be rude or unkind in some other way.
How do you react when these things occur?
Wise to Retaliate?
Is there not an immediate inclination to retaliate? But have you found that this really helps? The fact is, many marriages have deteriorated and broken up because mates retaliate. An opposite course is much wiser.
For consider: When tired or irritated, have you not said or done unkind things to persons you love? We all have. And have we not wished later that we could retract what was said or done?
But if retaliation to the unkindness follows, does not a cycle often start? Yes, unkindness quickly follows unkindness, and hostilities grow. Some persons may feel that they should repay injury with injury to keep others from taking advantage of them. But, time and again, experience has shown how unwise this is.
Feuds can result. Sometimes these have lasted so long that participants do not even recall how the strife began. Even whole nations and peoples have become involved in this cycle of rendering injury for injury.
How can it be stopped? What is the best way to react to unkind remarks or acts?
A Wise Course
An example of nearly 150 years ago illustrates. At that time there was a practice, when one was insulted, to challenge the offender to a duel. Thus, when the American statesman Henry Clay felt insulted by remarks of John Randolph about him in the United States Senate, he challenged Randolph to a pistol duel. Eyewitness Thomas H. Benton wrote:
“I withdrew a little way into the woods, and kept my eyes fixt on Mr. Randolph . . . I saw him receive the fire of Mr. Clay, saw the gravel knocked up . . . saw Mr. Randolph raise his pistol—discharge it in the air; heard him say, ‘I do not fire at you, Mr. Clay’; and immediately advancing and offering his hand.”
Though pride had moved Randolph unwisely to accept the challenge to a duel, he obviously felt no hatred toward Clay. Yet having taken offense at Randolph’s remarks, Clay was willing to kill him. It could have cost Clay his own life! Truly wise is the inspired advice of God’s Word: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.”—Eccl. 7:9.
But is it really wise to take abuse from others without retaliating? Well, even though Randolph had at first foolishly let pride put his life in danger, what happened when, after refusing to return fire, he kindly extended his hand to Clay? Benton continues: “He was met in the same spirit. . . . On Monday the parties exchanged cards, and social relations were formally and courteously restored.”
Yes, it is best to show kindness even when others are unkind to you. We are wise if we heed the apostle Peter’s counsel to Christians, in which he urged them not to be “paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing.”—1 Pet. 3:9.
Others may feel that they should return evil for evil, but the wise course is that recommended by God’s Word: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Rom. 12:17-19) So, instead of trying to get even with those who may be unkind to you, wisely obey the Bible proverb: “Do not say: ‘Just as he did to me, so I am going to do to him. I shall repay each one according to his acting.’”—Prov. 24:29.
God’s way is to show kindness. “He is kind toward the unthankful and wicked.” So his Son Jesus Christ, who follows His example, urges: “Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35, 36) This course will be a protection.
For one thing, it can protect you from hurting yourself. How so? Well, what may happen if you angrily retaliate when someone is unkind to you? May not your blood pressure rise, with possible serious consequences to your health? However, remaining calm and under control is good for you. The Bible correctly says: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.”—Prov. 14:30.
But, furthermore, your kind reaction may have a good effect on the one who has acted or spoken unkindly to you. You may win the goodwill of that one and preserve peaceful relations. Time and again, the Bible proverb has proved true: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.”—Prov. 15:1.
Another Aspect of Matters
What will you do when others are unkind, not to you, but to someone else? At times, many people join in persecuting true Christians. In doing this, they may ‘follow the crowd.’ (Compare Exodus 23:2.) Under such circumstances, would you be kind to persecuted Christians?
A woman in the African country of Malawi faced such a question squarely when persecuted witnesses of Jehovah were fleeing from that land in October 1972. This woman, though of another religion, kindly hid fleeing Witnesses in her home and helped them to cross the river by night to safety in neighboring Mozambique. A traveling overseer of Jehovah’s witnesses told her about Rahab of Jericho, who hid Israelite messengers, with the result that Rahab and her relatives later were spared during the fall of Jericho to the Israelites.
The African woman was encouraged by this Bible account. In time, she and her husband and children crossed the border to study the Bible with the Witnesses. As a result, she symbolized her dedication to serve Jehovah God, and has been richly blessed spiritually.—Matt. 25:34-40.
So, how will you react when others are unkind? If you prize God’s approval and your own welfare, you will not retaliate. And neither will you ‘follow the crowd’ when others are unkind to those who do not deserve ill treatment.