Nov. 11, 2013 Civility in Xian Scripture
Proverbs 12:16, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”
Truth is, not everything needs to be answered. Not every slight or offense needs to be acknowledged. Giving that satisfaction to every insult only validates the insult and often hands the reins of power to the other person. Incivility grows as the cycle of insult and response grows and continues.
Not every insult is even intentional. Take a deep breath. Buy yourself some time to chill out and reflect. And even if you figure that the insult, the other person’s incivility, was intentional… you can still just let it go. You know that thing Jesus said about “turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-42) is maybe one of the most quoted and most misunderstood verses. Jesus didn’t say that we always let the accuser or the attacker have their way with us. Jesus said, “You have two cheeks, so use them both.” Go check it out… it’s in the context of Jesus pointing out how an “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” aren’t the only options we have for facing evil.
The eye and tooth thing was a restraining rule, it was meant to keep the aggrieved from unnecessarily escalating an offense. In other words, don’t take a whole head for an eye, or an arm for a tooth. But we’re so bad about managing our anger, we just keeping taking teeth and eyes until there’s nothing left for anyone. Slow things down… delay the fight… turn and present the other cheek.
We don’t need to be a people who leap to a fight. We don’t need to be a people who feed the trolls or the beast of incivility. We can leave that one to the foolish. It’s a hard teaching, found in both the proverb above and the words of Jesus. Being a victim of incivility does not license me to respond in kind.