Proverbs 12:16, “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.”
“I’m so mad at you right now I could scream!” “Shut up, who do you think you are to talk to me that way?” “How dare you say that to me, you better stop before I snap and lose my temper!” Have you ever reacted to an insult like this before? I know I have many times.
King Solomon in today’s proverb is teaching us that we are to handle our problems with prudence instead of acting in annoyance. The word “prudence” means, “the ability to control one’s self.” According to God, when a fool is insulted they quickly lose their temper, but when a prudent person is insulted they use self-control. How have you been acting when insulted, like a fool or a prudent person?
Consider the most prudent person in all-human history; Jesus. His brothers mocked Him, His religion rejected Him, His disciples forsook Him and His government crucified Him. Yet, on the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). If Jesus, God in the flesh, could overlook the insults of His own creation, you and I can humble ourselves to our fellow man and give them grace.
At the same time, overlooking an insult doesn’t mean becoming a doormat for everybody in life. There were times when Jesus did respond to people’s insults. For example, Jesus whipped the moneychangers and drove them out of the temple because they were insulting the Father’s house (Matthew 21:12). The insults of the Jewish people reached the point of God’s righteous judgment. However, Jesus always knew how to control His emotions and not sin in His anger. Being angry is not a sin, but sinning in your anger is. And just like with forgiveness, overlooking someone’s insult is not excusing it or pretending it didn’t happen. But rather, you are leaving the judgment to God by choosing your peace over the conflict.
James wrote, “19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Certainly, there will be times for conflict and confrontation. King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:8 that there is, “a time for war and a time for peace.” Therefore, let’s use prudence to know what our right response should be in life’s trials. Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.” Learn to avoid reacting to insults based on your emotions. Instead, respond to insults with God’s prudence.
- Ask Jesus to forgive you of the times when you lacked prudence.
- Ask God to give you the fruit of self-control (i.e., “prudence”).
- Next time you’re offended take a few moments before you respond and act with prudence.