My friend recently told me a story about an experience with his father. His father is dead, but the influence of the episode lingers. He gave me permission to share the story, and I hope I've remembered the details correctly.
When Charles was still a boy, he worked in his father's warehouse. There were grown men working all around him. But his father wanted him to learn responsible work habits. And the adults kept a protective eye on him.
One of the men in the warehouse was, in the language of that time, an "old reprobate." He was known to cheat on his wife. He was anything but a virtuous fellow who deserved the respect much less imitation of a teenaged boy. Even the boy sensed the man's wickedness and picked up on the lack of respect for him among his own peers. So everyone else in the boy's world was "Mr. Smith" or "Mr. Brown," and the old scoundrel was simply "Joe."
Charles' dad heard his son speak to "Joe" one day and called him into his office. "Son," he began, "you know I've told you to address grown-ups respectfully. I heard you call out to Joe' a while ago and didn't like the sound of it."
So the son began explaining to his father why he made a deliberate distinction between "Joe" and "Mr. Brown" or "Mr. Smith." He ended by telling his father that the title "Mr." implied a degree of respect for someone that the man didn't deserve.
"You are going to treat that man properly because of who you are, young man!" said the father. "I won't countenance your disrespect to another human being no matter what you think of him." What a profound lesson for a parent to teach a child. And it has stuck with Charles. It has served him well in a successful business career.
Did anyone teach you that certain behaviors are civil and polite? That being disrespectful reveals more about you than the object of your enmity? That you lower yourself in the eyes of virtuous people by being mean or hateful even to someone who has done you wrong or merited your scorn?
Jesus taught his disciples to turn their cheeks to insults. He even warned about being persecuted for righteousness. But he never called his people to be unkind, rude, or disrespectful. "Take it from others, if you must, with courage and poise," he taught. "But never, never be the one dishing it out!"
When you face provocation this week or feel the impulse to chide someone with rudeness or impudence, remember who you are and act accordingly.