Proverbs 12:16 ESV
The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.
Ignoring an insult is generally harder than you’d wish. Sometimes, thankfully, it’s a glancing blow, ill-aimed to get past your defenses. More often than we’d like to admit, though, the insults, intended or not, make room rent-free in our minds and rankle, trying to turn into festering emotional sores. Our pride gets bruised, and we respond with words or actions calculated to make our self-importance known.
The Bible warns against such human folly on the grounds of two types of wisdom: humility and prudence.
First, though, why do insults hurt?
Insults, generally, attack our pride. As humans, we tend to find self-worth in ourselves, the people we’re connected to, and the possessions we have obtained. Insults tell us that this pride is unmerited, not worth the metaphorical paper it’s written on. Insults prey on the fragility of the false assurances we give ourselves, that we are in and of ourselves special or that the people and things around us invest us with value, and we respond to this attack by attacking right back, trying to protect our pride.
The problem, ultimately, is that we generally have pride in that which we ought not to have pride in. Man’s worth comes from God, from the Image of God in man, not from his actions or his possessions. Man’s character too is hopelessly lost. As Romans 3:12 ESV says, “No one does good, not even one”. Our pride, therefore, as Paul says of himself, must be in “in the Lord”, for such is the means by which God has made us worthy to stand before Him, the glorified Imago Dei (1 Corinthians 1:31). Who are we to argue with God (Job 42:1-6)?
The answer, then, is humility, and not the perversion of humility which is mere self-abasement. Humility, as C.S. Lewis reminds us in the Screwtape Letters, is knowing the truth of oneself. We must, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, seek to understand our own faults and our own virtues, to give to God the thanks which are due him (Matthew 22:21) and to find in Him the solace which we so often need. Such humility does not buckle in the face of an insult- the man who knows what he is capable and whose trust ultimately resides in God will be much less susceptible to the war darts of the world.
The foolish man, as this proverb reminds us, has none of this strong foundation. He therefore turns his hurt pride against the world, making his vexation known.
The second grounds, and the one more obviously urged in this passage, is the grounds of prudence. A hot temper is a notorious cause of bad decisions. Angry men, almost as much as foolish men, tend to cease considering what is right and choose, therefore, what is in accordance with their anger without care for God’s law. We should therefore reign in our tempers.
With insults, this means ignoring them. As another passage in Proverbs says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). Unlike fools, who seize onto insults and in their anger do little save cause greater wounds in others, the prudent man turns to God, taking refuge in Him whom all insults are as nothing to. After all, if He is with us, whom should we fear?
I bind this day to me for ever / by power of faith, Christ’s incarnation; / his baptism in Jordan river; / his death on cross for my salvation; / his bursting from the spiced tomb; / his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom; / I bind unto myself today.
~ Saint Patrick’s Breastplate
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.