What Is an Insult?

Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash

We are continuing our 21 Day Fast from Negative Words that we started on Valentine’s Day. You are welcome to join any time and start your 21 days whenever you like.

Last week, we talked a lot about complaining – what it is , what it isn’t, how we can avoid it, and what to replace it with.

This week, we are diving into the topic of insults. I want to cover some important issues like:

  • What is an insult? And what is not an insult?
  • How can we avoid insulting others?
  • How can we respond wisely to insults?
  • How God can use what people intend for evil against us for His good purposes?

Today, let’s talk about what an insult is – and what it is not.

What Is an Insult?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  • transitive verb – to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt : AFFRONT also : to affect offensively or damagingly
  • noun – a gross indignity
  • synonyms – OFFEND, OUTRAGE, AFFRONT, INSULT mean to cause hurt feelings or deep resentment. OFFEND need not imply an intentional hurting but it may indicate merely a violation of the victim’s sense of what is proper or fitting. OUTRAGE implies offending beyond endurance and calling forth extreme feelings. AFFRONT implies treating with deliberate rudeness or contemptuous indifference to courtesy.  INSULT suggests deliberately causing humiliation, hurt pride, or shame.

From a Few of My Amazing Readers:

  • An insult is something that may or may not be true, and is said with the intent to harm or discourage the receiver. Constructive criticism is something that also may or may not be true, but it said with the intent to encourage the receiver to take the comment to God to determine whether changes truly need to be made.
  • It takes courage to speak truth in love. If something is said to insult or be nasty there’s no courage in that, there’s no empathy or concern how the word will affect the other person. That’s the main way I know how to tell the difference.
  • My first thought is that an insult is meant to tear down, while constructive criticism/rebuke comes from a desire to encourage & build up. Really, it boils down to the intent of our hearts and how spiritually prepared we are before we share. Also, I’m learning that no matter how spiritually prepared I am or how respectful I communicate in words, tone of voice & body language, I cannot control the other person’s response. That is theirs to own.
  • Another thought.. Trying to offer constructive criticism/rebuke via social media is oftentimes counter-productive and we are the only ones who end up angry and hurt. Being selective in what I post and what I comment on, as well as knowing when to just end the conversation (by not continuing to post) are all things that have helped me.

My Thoughts:

We insult someone when we purposely intend to verbally wound someone.

When we insult others, we are disrespectful, hateful, malicious, or rude with our words – or even with our actions. Our intentions are destructive, not loving. We seek to hurt the person, not bless them.

This is a sin issue.

Our motives may include resentment, bitterness, pride, self-righteousness, assuming the worst about someone else’s intentions or motives toward us, malice, hatred, fear, misunderstanding, disrespect, control, manipulation, sinful jealousy, sinful anger, self-defense, a desire to elevate self at another’s expense, etc…

Insults break fellowship, destroy trust,  create division, foster strife, and hurt the gospel, the witness of believers, and the body of Christ. They grieve God’s Spirit.

God’s Word Tells Us Not to Insult Others

  • Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. James 4:11
  • There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18
  • Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Prov. 11:12
  • Love does no harm to a neighbor. Rom. 13:10

Note – if someone makes a threat, that is much worse than an insult. If someone suggests they will cause you or someone else bodily harm, please reach out to appropriate authorities and get help as soon as it is safe to do so. No one should have to be in danger.

What Things Are Not Insults?

Now here is where it can get dicey. Sometimes an insult can be rather subjective. The hearer may feel offended and insulted – when there was no intent to hurt or offend them.

The things below are not insults when shared with the proper spirit and motives:

  • Having different religious beliefs.
  • Sharing a different opinion.
  • Stating facts.
  • Having different personal convictions.
  • Sharing uncomfortable, unpopular truth (i.e.: from Scripture).
  • Standing firmly against anything God calls sin and even humbly, respectfully, firmly confronting sin when appropriate.
  • Godly rebukes or constructive criticism.
  • A person in a position of God-given leadership seeking to lead those in his/her care (in ways that are not sinful).
  • Enforcing a healthy boundary with someone who is unrepentant or hurtful and who won’t change even when he/she knows the other person is hurt.
  • Speaking up about feeling hurt, mistreated, ignored, pressured, controlled, smothered, etc…
  • Sharing my legitimate needs and concerns.
  • Sharing my desires in a vulnerable, direct way.
  • Saying, “No,” to someone’s request.
  • Deciding not to trust someone who has broken my trust and who is unwilling to re-establish trust.
  • Not associating with someone who professes to be a believer in Christ but who is living in certain kinds of unrepentant sin – like sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, divisiveness, or fraud/swindling (1 Cor. 5:10-12).
  • Breaking fellowship between myself and a professing brother/sister in Christ who is repeatedly divisive (Titus 3:10-11).

Unfortunately, there are times when others are trying to share important information – information that may be very beneficial, good, or even life-saving – but some will take offense and feel insulted/attacked and then react defensively or offensively – often out of misunderstanding, fear, or pride.

Some are afraid of rejection, conflict, disapproval from others, condemnation, etc… Others’ pride blinds them to believe that they truly believe they are “above” needing correction from anyone. They believe they are always right – like I did for so many years.

Sometimes a person:

  • Purposely insults another with the intent to harm.
  • Says something the hearer perceives to be an insult, but the speaker did not have harmful intentions, and may have actually had constructive or even loving intentions.

We will be talking about how to respond rightly to insults – and perceived insults – in the next post.

Pray with Me

Lord,

This is such a painful, difficult, muddy subject for many of us. But it is something we all need to understand. We all need Your wisdom, discernment, and Light about how to tell what an insult is – and what it is not. And we all need Your Spirit’s power to help us respond in Your ways to insults and to keep ourselves from insulting others. We invite Your Spirit to work in mighty ways in us this week. Illuminate our minds. Soften our hearts to Your voice. Grant us ears to hear and eyes to see Your spiritual treasures. Show us any areas where we are holding onto toxic sin that is destroying us. And help us to repent of it and allow You to transform our hearts and minds by the power of Your Word and truth. Your truth sets us free!

Amen!

SHARE

What wisdom have you learned about how to define an insult? What is the difference between an insult and constructive criticism?

Thanks so much for walking this road with me. I’m excited that we can encourage one another along the way and seek to point each other to greater faith in Jesus. May we all be open to all the spiritual treasures He has for us this week!

 

Much love!

 

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What Does the Bible Say about Insults?

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An Amazing Resource – Nina Roesner’s eCourse “Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity”

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2 thoughts to “What Is an Insult?”

    1. Shy,

      It’s definitely challenging. And requires a lot of wrestling in prayer and seeking the Lord – and the power, wisdom, and sensitivity to the prompting of the Spirit.

      Praying for God’s wisdom for us all in this!

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