3 Ways To Respond When Someone Is Unkind To You

June 18, 2014 — 9 Comments


What do you do when someone says something unkind to you?

What is your natural tendency when someone bites you with their words?

If you are anything like me, you probably have a less than honoring reaction.  You bite back with unkind words.  Your goal is often to put the person back in their place with words that sting.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Someone says some unkind to you.  You return it with more unkind remarks.  It goes back and forth until relationships are damaged often beyond repair.  Feelings are hurt, and emotional scars have been left as permanent reminders of the pain inflicted by someone’s tongue.

You are guilty of it, and I am guilty of it too.

So how do we stop the cycle?

I think we can learn a lot from Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”  Jesus (Matthew 5:38-40)

Here are some things we can learn from these words:

3 Ways To Respond When Someone Is Unkind To You

  1. Resist the urge to respond in kind.  I know you want to snap back, but you must resist this temptation.  This takes practice, patience, and persistence.  When you respond in a similar manner, you are only throwing kindling on the fire.
  2. Take it, and take it again.  Expect more unkind words from the verbal perpetrator.  In fact, welcome these words.  Sure it will hurt, but you will put the fire of unkindness out by avoiding a response.  A fire needs oxygen to be effective.  Unkind words are like oxygen on a fire.  When you decide not to add unkind words to the exchange, you are helping to put out the fire.
  3. Respond with generous kindness.  It’s hard to frown at someone who is smiling at you.  Similarly, it is hard to keep throwing unkind words at a person who is lifting you up.  Decide today to be an encourager.

How do you respond when people treat you unkindly?  What is one thing you can do to improve your response?

Jon Stolpe


Christ-follower, husband, dad, engineer, manager, runner, blogger, sax player, group life fan, freelance writer, and the list goes on...
  • Steve Y

    Very good advice. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, we must be prepared. I think a quick prayer also helps.

    • Prayer helps us stay emotional centered. And it keeps us focused on Christ. Having a Christ-like response is definitely more likely if we incorporate prayer into everything we do.

  • I sulk more than anything.

  • Resist the urge to respond in kind is a great tip. Several months ago we had a former church leader make several negative comments via social media about an event we were planning. I chose not to respond at all. Soon several of our members responded in a positive manner and one our Elders actually made a phone cal to the person. – The person’s attitude quickly changed.

    • Social media can be a positive and powerful force, but it can also be very negative. People often do not fully think things through before hitting post on a less than stellar comment.

  • It depends on who it is. If it’s someone that I really want to impress I get all sorts of sad. If it’s someone that I don’t feel the need to impress then it’s easier for me to dismiss it. For example a random blog comment that is mean doesn’t hit me all that hard. A comment from Jon Acuff where he told me I was an idiot would hit a lot harder.

    • I think you are right, Rob. I know for me a couple of comments from people I deeply respect can either lift me up or bring me down pretty quickly.

  • Consider the source – usually the meanie is insecure, angry, threatened or in some other sorry state of mind. Then consider whether or not there is an element of truth – there is always something to be learned. Then, go have some dark chocolate.

    • Ah, yes. I’ve heard it said that dark chocolate fixes everything.