It is something, often intentionally said or done, to irritate another, to get an adverse response or a negative reaction. In Bible times, those who couldn’t have children were sometimes maliciously teased (Gen 16:4,5; 1 Sam 1:5-7). The Israelites by their wayward actions of worshipping detestable idols provoked the Lord to holy anger (Deut 32:16,21). When Jesus was on the cross the religious leaders taunted saying, “He saved others, but can’t save Himself” (Mt 27:42). Jesus could have come down from the cross, having just stated immediately prior to this He could have in excess of eighty thousand angels come to His rescue, yet chose to remain faithful to the divine plan; we too should be more concerned to fulfill our calling than be diverted by those who are oblivious to higher orders (Mt 25:53; Heb 12:2,3). The Bible says, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” (Eccl 7:9). Follow the example of Jesus who responded in the opposite spirit to those who insulted Him, by committing Himself to God and keeping His silence (Mk 14:61; 1 Pet 2:23, 3:9).

Am I upset by criticism? Often there is a least some measure of truth in another’s observation, although the words and manner of delivery are less than loving. Rather than retaliating and resenting the person who has shown up the hole in your armour why not take steps to correct your personal weakness or fault? How do you respond to ridicule

Spur one another on to love and              good works – Hebrews 10:24

and being falsely accused? These stinging words provide a challenge – do they cause you to seek revenge or spur you on, inspiring you to live out the Christian life, rising up above the negative persecution to bless those who have spoken these words while committing yourself to the real judge (Mt 5:11,12,44; Rom 12:14,19). Am I known as a peacemaker or one who stirs up trouble by harassment or an abrasive personality?

Sometimes things have to be confronted, but this should not be with an arrogant heavy-handed attitude, rather in a spirit of love and humility (as there will be failings on both sides) seeking a life-changing response, not just a surface compliance (Eph 4:15). In such situations Scripture also reminds us to proceed with caution and utilise witnesses where necessary (Mt 5:23,24, 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1). At other times the godliest choice is to exercise self-control and literally walk away from the situation. 

The brother of the prodigal son had an attitude problem (Lk 15:25-32). In our relationships with others, we should try not to take negative comments too personally, instead have an attitude of understanding and goodwill. Fathers are instructed not to annoy their children by treating them in a way inconsistent with how God, our father, deals with us (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21).

See also: aggression, anger, conflict, criticism, opposite spirit, peace, retaliation, self-control.

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