“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you” (Pr. 9:7-8a). There are two basic types of people who will engage you in conversation. The first kind criticizes everything and has little or no respect for anyone. Their first words to you should immediately place you in a heightened state of awareness because you have dealt with this kind of person previously in your life. They either outrightly attack your position or disguise the attack with passive-aggressive words. These individuals will then take your response as unfounded criticism and justify that for the tirade they are about to launch on you. I have advice for you if you know someone who is angrily defensive at the drop of a hat or uses rage as a go-to in any argument.
When someone, especially someone who does not know you, uses insults to belittle you, let it go. Don’t let the devil invade your head. Even if you are drawn into the battle, leave it as soon as you realize what is happening. Answer sternly if you must, but then move on. Don’t get drawn into long battles with someone who refuses to respect your opinions. They are not searching for mutually beneficial conversation but rather a verbal fight that quickly spirals into accusations and insults. They will try and trample you because they have no empathy or understanding, and you will never, never receive an apology. They are incapable of saying “I am sorry” because they see that as a sign of defeat, and they intend to conquer, not grow. These trolls on social media or predators in real life are not worth the time it takes to defend your position. Just allow them to think they have won and move on – they will think that anyway, so why waste energy on them? Pray for them and continue on with your life.
Then there is the other type of person, “…reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (Pr. 9:8b-9). These individuals will engage you in respectful, albeit heated, conversation from time to time. They understand that differences of opinion result from factors like worldview, location, education, experience, etc., and will take that into account when debating you. They may still come across as rough at times but will apologize for their behavior and forgive yours if asked to. They are confident and wise, and much can be learned from them. Unlike the angry scoffer who is looking for a fight, this person critiques and questions with your best interests at heart. Love motivates and then, and empathy is one of their strongest characteristics. Hang on to them because great friendships often result from rough beginnings.
Spend your energy on conversations, no matter how brief, that leave you encouraged and inspired. You and they do not always have to agree, but the difference between the two kinds of people I am speaking of today is found in that very thing. How they leave the conversation when agreement cannot be reached defines which kind of person they are. One will hurl insults, while the other will agree to disagree, knowing that God’s love best shines through in the most challenging times. Most rational people don’t mind if someone disagrees with them and will use the moment as a learning opportunity. Embrace that kind of engagement, but if they are looking for a fight, send them on their way.