Q&A: Question and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

When someone insults me and gets a laugh out of it, is there anything wrong with insulting them back?

New Era

When someone says something hurtful, often the normal first reaction is to say something equally hurtful back. The trouble is this response does absolutely nothing to even the score. It simply makes a bad situation worse.

Our Savior Jesus Christ taught us a better way. He taught us to treat each other with kindness. What do you think the Savior would do? We know from his example that he would choose righteousness (see Matt. 5:39). He would encourage us to “do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (see Matt. 5:44).

You might say, “But I didn’t start it. I didn’t say or do anything to bring this on myself.” That may be true. But if you want to put a stop to the harassment or insults, then you simply cannot participate in the same type of behavior.

Even though you have decided to take a higher road, it doesn’t stop the insults from hurting or embarrassing you. But there are a few things you can do that might help.

Don’t participate in teasing. There is a fine line between teasing that is good-natured and teasing that becomes hurtful. What starts out funny can quickly cause tears. Find some other ways of joking around other than telling jokes at the expense of someone else. You cannot participate in teasing others and then complain when you become the target of that same kind of teasing.

Tell those who are insulting you how you feel. Ignoring an insult may work once, but if people persist in saying insulting things, you need to be brave enough to tell them kindly and sincerely that they are hurting your feelings. It can be said that simply. “Please don’t say that because it hurts my feelings.” That may not end the insults, but at least those who are telling jokes at your expense cannot fool themselves by saying that you don’t mind. It will also help those around you to stand up in your behalf if they know for sure that you are not a willing participant. In other words, if the friends of the person who is insulting you know that you are hurt by the things said, they may be able to persuade their friend to leave you alone.

Set an example. In the Church we believe in a higher law than simply trading insults. Again, look to the life of Christ for an example. Over and over again in his life the Savior faced accusers and tormentors with a calm and kind manner. He did not depart from the things he taught. He brought a gospel of love, and he lived what he taught.

If you do not return insults, then you can look back with a clear conscience knowing you acted like a true follower of the Savior.

Ask for help. You have a right to stand up for yourself. And it is best if you can control your emotions, remain calm, and try to resolve the situation. If the insults become more and more serious and they are making you afraid, you may have to go to a parent, a teacher, or a leader for help.

Choose to be kind. If you choose to be kind over choosing to retaliate, the blessing of that good decision will eventually come back to you. Give it some time. If you become known as a person who is kind even in difficult and emotional situations, then people will eventually respond and begin returning that kindness. It may be difficult, and the teasing may not stop immediately, but as these incidents recede into your past, you will be glad you can look back with nothing to regret in your behavior.

Readers

The word insult connotes rudeness. From that you already know that insulting and insulting back is definitely wrong. When someone insults you, it hurts your ego. That’s why you tend to get even by insulting back. Try to reflect on the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. He let people mock and insult him without fighting them back. We don’t want to go back to the attitude of an eye for an eye, do we?

Ruth Marie I, Buena Agua, 20 Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines

If we insult others back, does it do any good for us or for the opposite party? No, the situation gets worse. “Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). The other person may see the goodness in us and try to follow it. We need to ask our Heavenly Father to give us strength and confidence.

Elder Louis, 23 Bangalore, Karnakata, India

I have a nerve disorder which makes me shake, so I’m the primary target of many insults that make everyone laugh except me. When things like this happen, I refer back to the scriptures when Christ said that we should love our enemies. I always feel better and don’t even think about stooping to their level to insult them back, for I know it is wrong.

Bonnie Allen, 19 Rocky Mount, North Carolina

When you are tempted to insult back, remember our Savior and how he withstood the mobs as they crowned him with thorns and spit in his face. He didn’t say a word back. Try Christ’s approach next time someone insults you. Don’t say anything mean back, or surprise them with a nice response.

Alecia Wrathall, 19 Las Vegas, Nevada

My brother and I are a year and a half apart. For the past four years, insults between us have outnumbered the praises and expressions of love. He is beginning to see himself as the person I described to him through my insults. I now see that he lacks confidence in himself. I can’t change what I’ve said, and I may have lost a wonderful brother. I can ask for forgiveness, but tearing down the wall between us is much harder. Before you belittle someone with your insults, think about what you risk losing eternally.

Name Withheld

[photo] Photography by John Luke

[illustration] Jesus taught that we should love the Lord with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves (see Luke 10:27). He used the parable of the Good Samaritan to further illustrate that to follow his teachings we need to be merciful to all those we come in contact with. (Painting The Good Samaritan by Edward Vebell.)