There I was, at the front desk, struggling to keep the phone receiver to my ear. The caller? Another angry woman with more expletives in her vocabulary than the urban dictionary. I was nearing the end of the call, getting ready to tell the woman exactly what she didn’t want to hear: “No, ma’am that worker is not available. I can transfer you to their desk, and you could leave a voicemail if you’d like.” Cue the derogatory remarks and threats toward the innocent secretary.
Dealing with rude people is something we all have to do. In the heat of the moment, when you’re about to “go hulk” on a perpetrator, it can be painstakingly difficult to react in a God glorifying way. Dealing with rude people is no longer a singular, face-to-face interaction either. No,no,no. You’ve got your: “rude-in-person-rude people;” “rude-on-social-media-rude people;” “rude-on-a-text-rude-people;” “rude-behind-your-back-rude-people.” The lists goes on and on my friend.
So what are some practical ways we can respond to rude people without “losing our religion” — as some like to call it? What are some biblical principles to recall when we’re tempted to let our emotions get the best of us?
1. Don’t take it personally.
Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” Proverbs 29:11 (NLT)
When someone is being rude to you, remember that 99.9% of the time what is really bothering the agitator has nothing to do with you. Usually, the rude fellow is venting about something else, is in pain, or is generally just a rude person. The offender’s rude behavior does not reflect anything negative about you, rather it is a reflection of him or her. Keep in mind, that you yourself have said things to others or about others that were rude at some point.
There’s no point in feeling personally offended by someone who cuts you off in traffic, because the driver doesn’t know you. It’s not a personal attack. Consider other alternatives as well. Maybe that driver is inexperienced, just having an “off” day, or again is just being the evil person he or she naturally is. There’s no reason any of those things should steal your joy.
Let’s say someone has made an ugly comment on your FaceBook post. Naturally, you might be tempted to take it personally, because the person does know you. Again, assuming you haven’t posted something unbiblical, this is a reflection of that person’s character. Don’t let it upset you. Delete the comment if it is offensive, private message the person, ask them why they felt that it was appropriate to make such a comment, and if possible try to come to some peace. If the person persists, then just “unfriend” them or drop the conflict.
2. Don’t fuel the flame.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 (ESV)
When someone says something rude to you, maybe your first reaction is to deal with them on sight. I know mine is. You’re ready to hit them with something hard: words or fists, whichever comes first. (I’m not picky when I’m angry.) Solomon is speaking the truth here when he says, “a harsh word stirs up wrath.” As far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with others. (Rom 12:8)
Our goal when we are faced with rude people who want to rant, is not to add fuel to the flames of dispute by saying something smart, sarcastic, or harsh. Our goal is to put out those flames with kindness and love. I know. Tough, right? Most people see that as a type of weakness, but really think about it. “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans [people who don’t know God] do that (Matt 5:47, NLT).” It takes a strong person to turn away a rude attitude with a kind word.
When someone disrespects you, especially at your job or in a public setting. Do not react by engaging in an argument with your offender. You have a choice in the matter. Just walk away if possible. Most of the time, you could end up in more trouble than the one who started the fight. For example, at my job one lady cursed me out and threatened me over the phone. Of course when she came to the office she did nothing at all, but she did say harsh things about me in front of my coworkers and myself. Naturally, I really wanted to hit her in the jaw at that point. But when you stop and think about the consequences of letting yourself go like that, who really wins?
If I did retaliate I would have: 1) Grieved the Holy Spirit; 2) Definitely lost my job; 3) Either got my butt whipped or paid the rude lady’s medical damages; 4) Completely ruined my Christian witness at my job. And for what? My pride? Remember that Christians live for an audience of one. (That’s God by the way.) Don’t let your pride get the best of you.
3. Show them grace.
But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” Luke 6:27 (NLT)
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31 (ESV)
The irony is that when we’re offended, we don’t want to forgive others or do good to our enemies, but we find ourselves wanting others to forgive us and show us grace when we do wrong (namely God)! So many times we get caught up in what we feel like we deserve, we never stop to think about our own need for grace when we mess up.
The “love” in Luke 6:27 is the greek word, “agapaō.” It means to “wish well” and “to regard the welfare of.” It’s the kind of love God demonstrated when He sent Jesus to sinners, and ransomed Him to set us free from sin. Returning evil for good is sooooo hard, when we are caught up in ourselves instead of abiding in Christ. Arrogance is definitely a roadblock on the “let it go” highway.
If you have a disagreement with someone, especially a relative or maybe even a coworker, (if possible) reaffirm your love for him or her by speaking a kind word, giving a gift when appropriate, inviting him or her to functions (don’t exclude them), and most importantly pray for that person. Praying for someone that is hard to love is an excellent way to keep yourself from feeling bitter.
4. Be patient & humble.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)
Whether you want to accept it or not, you too have been that “rude person” at some point. I cringe at the thought of some of the careless things I have said in the past. When you are dealing with someone rude or disrespectful, it’s important that you don’t have a “high and mighty” attitude as if you have never be rude to anyone before, or an attitude of “how dare this fool disrespect me!” What I mean is, the only person justified in saying anything as self-righteous as that is God. I don’t see anyone else perfect around here.
Besides God knows your heart, and He is not going to be cool with you acting like you weren’t someone who did the same things all the while you pray for them with an attitude as if you are blameless. Having an accurate view of who you were and who you are now by God’s grace will help you let the offense go when you’re tempted to be bitter.
If the offense happened at 8am, don’t dwell on it well past 3pm. You have the ability to choose to let it go, or let it ruin the rest of your day. If you are tempted to be angry about it for longer than some moments, sit down, and think about some of the harsh things you yourself have said and done. Pray and ask God to forgive your offender. Ask Him to help you take on an attitude of humility. If that doesn’t work, remember that God doesn’t forgive those that are unwilling to forgive others (Matt 6:15).
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37 (NIV)
Our tendency when someone is making an stubborn donkey of themselves is to judge him or her as this or that. Don’t even go there. Don’t change the standard for forgiveness when it comes to others. You want to be forgiven when you’re rude, right? Again, we never really know the circumstances of the people we run into, and what makes rude people do the things they do. But we do know that we ourselves have been shown grace by Christ and have been forgiven. That at least should motivate us to forgive others and choose grace over bitterness and revenge every time.
6. Pray for Humility.
When you pray to God for humility, you shouldn’t act surprised when he puts you in trying and humiliating situations. Being a secretary in general has taught me so much about humility and how to react when confronted with rude stereotypes and behaviors. In the beginning, I just felt angry and embarrassed when I felt disrespected, but those times have helped me see that I have a tendency to care more about “saving face” than seeing others saved through my witness as a Christian.
Don’t let your pride cause you to displease the Lord. Don’t be ruled by your emotions. You can forgive and bare with rude people because you have been forgiven. So the next time you are dealing with an angry caller, an entitled customer, or a talkative fool, try a little kindness and grace, and see what happens. If all else fails, walk away before you “go hulk” on the sucker.