Be Too Big for Spite
THERE is a saying that ‘you can measure a man by the size of the things it takes to upset him.’ How do you measure up in this regard?
No matter what the physical size is, the person who refuses to become upset by minor annoyances or offenses is a person of true stature. Whether man or woman, such a person shows, not a petty attitude, but a largeness of mind and spirit. But one easily upset over trifles is guilty of smallness. And often that smallness further betrays itself by acts of spite.
What is spite? Spite, we are told, ‘applies to ill will shown by doing petty things that hurt or annoy.’ It may be born of envy, resentment, or simply a mean disposition.
Is it not true that when a child feels it is wronged it often wants to retaliate immediately in petty ways? Why? Because a child is not only small in body but also immature in mind and emotions. So when adults act in a similar childish way they show how small they are emotionally. They are not “grown up” in a complete sense; they are not really “big.”
All too often spitefulness crops up between marriage partners. Psychiatrists say that wives at times engage in petty spiteful acts (and some not so petty), because their husbands disagree with them on some idea of theirs or perhaps because they are denied this or that luxury which the husbands feel they can ill afford. Then again, some husbands manifest spite because their pride is wounded due to some tactless remark or forgetfulness on the part of their mates. Refusing to speak to each other or speaking in a cold or icy tone of voice is a common form of spite manifested by marriage partners who are still small, that is, immature as regards the control of their emotions.
Spite can have very serious consequences. It can drive neighbors or marriage partners to acts of violence. Thus a man living in New York city once told a friend that he was going to kill one of his neighbors because of the spiteful treatment being given him by that neighbor. The friend, who happened to be one of Jehovah’s witnesses, pointed out how foolish this was. “What will happen to your family if you receive a long jail sentence because of having acted so rashly? Why not rather move out of the neighborhood?” the friend asked. The man recognized the sensibleness of the counsel.
Besides the harm that others may do to one who is spiteful, there is the harm the spiteful one may bring upon himself. Bearing a grudge or resentment that breeds spite has well been termed “self-poison.” It is one of man’s chief enemies, because one cannot harbor hostility without reaping harmful psychosomatic effects. That is to say, what adversely affects the mind adversely affects the body and the bodily processes. Really, indulging in spite is ‘cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face,’ for the spiteful person hurts himself most. It just is not worth it!
Spite certainly is not loving one’s neighbor as oneself, as the Bible instructs. (Mark 12:31) Spite does not make allowances. Spite pays back in kind, and frequently with interest. Spite is hating one’s enemies, whereas Jesus Christ tells us to love our enemies. We should want to help people do better, not goad them on to do worse. So guard against spite, because it is destructive to oneself and to others too.—Matt. 5:44, 45; Luke 6:31.
Most important of all, you should want to guard against spite because it is displeasing to your Creator. Almost invariably the spiteful one is trying to get even, rendering evil for evil. There can be no question that this is displeasing to the Creator, for his Word commands: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . Do not avenge yourselves.” Also: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” God is not pleased with us when we lower ourselves to the level of those who have wronged us.—Rom. 12:17-21.
How can you check the fallen tendency to express or indulge in spite? Just reasoning on its bad fruits should help you. To give in to the desire to “get even” with another at the cost of displeasing your best Friend and greatest Benefactor, Jehovah God, is not worth it, is it?
Humility will also help you to avoid this, for the person who engages in spite is acting presumptuously, proudly, taking upon himself the roles of both judge and executioner. He looks down upon the one that offended him and presumes to judge and punish him. The Bible says that vengeance belongs to Jehovah God. Truly, a humble person is a big person—Jesus Christ, the greatest man that ever lived, was also the most humble man.—Phil. 2:5-8.
Empathy, the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another, will also help you to guard against spite. Try to see matters from the other person’s viewpoint. This may help you not to take so seriously his offenses against you, but rather to make allowances for him. Here, too, empathy is a quality possessed by mature people, those big in an emotional and spiritual sense.
Then again, a sense of humor may help you to guard against spite. Being able to dismiss, with a sense of humor, petty actions on the part of others is often the wisest course and again demonstrates one’s maturity.
But most of all, love will help you to avoid resorting to spite, should you be the object of pettiness on the part of others. Love “does not keep account of the injury.” Love ‘bears all things, hopes and endures all things.’ Love truly is a measure of how big one is in spiritual matters.—1 Cor. 13:4-7.
So be too big for spite. As Jesus said, “Prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.” Yes, be like the Great God, who forgives “in a large way.” By being forgiving instead of resorting to spite you will be heeding this counsel of Jesus.—Isa. 55:7; Matt. 5:45-48.