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What to Do When Held in Contempt

I was standing in Starbucks in Southern California waiting for my coffee, and the looks I was getting were downright mean.


I started to wonder . . .


What’s wrong with these people?


Why am I getting such nastiness from complete strangers?


Maybe they hate the Zags? (I was in my favorite red Zags cap.)


Then the barista behind the counter holds out a mask and says to me with a hint of sarcasm, “Here’s a free mask.”


Oh boy, now I get it. Due to a serious lack of caffeine, I’d forgotten to wear my Covid-19 survival gear. Oops. Sorry.


However, despite my honest mistake, the contempt on the faces of my fellow caffeine addicts seemed a bit dramatic and uncalled for. Somebody could have smiled and nicely said, “Did you forget your face ornament today?”


Instead, what I got was contempt, and that always stings.



I remember a time a few years ago when I was on jury duty. During the case I was on, there was an outbreak in the courtroom. A woman yelled at the judge (no bueno) and referred negatively to his honor’s lineage (no muy bien).


The judge didn’t miss a beat. “Ma’am, sit down and be quiet, or you will be held in contempt!”


She didn’t sit down or shut up, so he did hold her in contempt, and she was forcibly removed.


No one likes to be treated with contempt.


Not the judge.


Not me.


Not you.


Most of us want to be liked and treated with a measure of honor and respect. We want to be valued for who we are and what we do. No one enjoys being called a “Son of a Hibachi.”


As a leader and pastor, it would be pretty sweet to throw someone in jail when I’m mistreated, but that’s not an option. (I have considered the potential benefits of wearing a black robe, but I doubt that would help.)


So what should you and I do when we’re unfairly treated with scorn, disrespect, and maybe hatred?



My daughter wrote an excellent guest post last week that gave the best answer: love.


However, here are four other things to consider:


1. Listen first.


Honestly, evaluate the stuff that might be true. No one is perfect. Everyone has room to grow. Don’t get so focused on the ridiculous that you miss the real. Even if only 10% is correct, listen and own it.


2. React less. 


There are times when it might be best to keep your mouth shut and say nothing. But whatever you do, take a deep breath and count to ten (or maybe a thousand) before you do or say anything. Reacting emotionally generally doesn’t end well.



3. Respond more.


Show the kindness to others that you wish they would show to you. It’s that “treat others the way you want to be treated” and “turn the other cheek” thing Jesus talked about.


4. Say “thank you.”


There is an incredible benefit in developing an attitude of gratitude. For example, did you know it is impossible to be grateful and grumpy at the same time? Even if you are falsely accused and maligned, you can still say, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.” (Besides, this response always throws people because it’s not what they’re expecting.) There is almost always something you can glean from a contemptuous encounter. Fix your mind there.


I know, words hurt.


I understand.


Sadly, the general environment in our culture is vicious at times. I fear we have lost the value of practicing kindness and decency toward those we disagree with.


But remember this: you can’t change everybody or everything, but you can change one thing—your heart. So please do.


I promise you won’t regret it.


Kurt Bubna

Kurt W. Bubna has published seven books, is an internationally recognized blogger, conference and retreat speaker, as well as an experienced life and leadership coach. Bubna has over forty years of experience working with individuals, teams, and a wide variety of business and non-profit organizations.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Ronna Snyder

    Phrase for the week: “Son of a hibachi!!!!!”
    Made me laugh.
    You should look on my FB page. Yesterday, I posted a 5 min. video of a coordinated maskless “attack” on Trader Joe’s…..i.e., they simply went in together and each bought something. (Think non-swearing, non-angry, polite, maskless anti-antifa-types…..”normal people who’d had enough”. ) It’s priceless. Staff was freaking out. They simply didn’t know what to do with 20 maskless polite people flooding their aisles. They were prepared to be turned away at the cash registers. They’d brought cash. And OVER-paid for everything. Taking photos of the cash and the item at the register. They left saying with smiles in their voices saying, “Thank you, God bless you, we love you.” Again, priceless. 🙂 (If your post was a video IT would be your vid. 🙂

    1. KurtBubna

      Thank you, Ronna. Love and appreciate you SO much!

  2. Cary Edwards

    5. Think about what Jesus did for us, and the example it leaves for us… Phil 2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even the death on a cross.

    1. KurtBubna

      Thanks, Cary, for adding to the conversation. Love you buddy!

  3. Lonnie Castillo

    Thank you for this!

    1. KurtBubna

      You are welcome, Lonnie, it’s good to hear from you.

  4. Dawn

    Thank you for the reminder… there is far too much contempt these days. Those folks in Starbucks immediately assumed you were being malicious, I wish people would give others the benefit of doubt before assigning motivation to another.

    1. KurtBubna

      Thank you, Dawn. It is sad how we humans tend to assume the worse…

  5. Ruth (Cathy Schisler Elmasian)

    Cousin Kurt, this is muy bueno for these times! Above all things we must guard our hearts!

    1. KurtBubna

      Good to hear from you, Ruth! Thank you for the kind words. You are loved!

  6. Mary Ann McKnight

    Good blog post. Especially in these times of discontent.

    1. KurtBubna

      Thank you, Mary Ann. Sad, but true.

  7. Diane Hunter

    That is a wonderful message. Everyone can do something to make things better. Just put out a little kindness and watch what happens.

    1. KurtBubna

      My momma was right, kindness is always best! 🙂

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