The Stimulus of Rebuffs
Unto this present hour we are buffeted. -- I Cor. 4: 11
“Knocked about,” is the rendering in the Moffatt translation. One cannot move around much in this world without being knocked about in some way. But one is a poor sort of man, and unworthy of the world’s rewards, if he tries to avoid the world because he is afraid of its blows. “He is not worthy of the honeycomb that shuns the hive because the bees have stings” (Shakespeare).
Men who stand above the common level in wealth and position may seldom meet with rebuffs. They are more likely to be flattered, catered to, bootlicked, which may be all the worse for them. I would rather have some rude persons rebuff me now and then than to have sycophants continually fawning on me. If I am inclined to be vain, I need the discipline of rebuffs, not the flattery of sycophants. I need “the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (II Cor. 12: 7). Indeed, like Paul, I might well add a good measure of self-beating (I Cor. 9: 27).
I do not envy those whose wealth and position make them immune from kicks and rebuffs. Until we are fit for the company of angels, it is better for us to live in company with the common run of people and share with them the rough-and-tumble discipline which is the normal experience in their lot. Such discipline is hard to endure. We often grow weary of it, and wish that we might escape into some haven of ease. But the easy life is not the best life, nor the happiest. To most of us, It would mean stagnation, an ignoble resignation to stay where we are, and cease striving to go on to anything better. We require some blows and rebuffs, not alone for discipline, but as a stimulus to keep us going forward.
When a bee steals from a flower, it also fertilizes that flower. We may smart from the sting of ill-treatment, but the pain stimulates us. Not many of us would ever go far in life if we never experienced the stimulation that comes from being knocked about. Browning welcomes each rebuff:
That makes life’s smoothness rough;
Each sting that bids not sit, nor stand, but go!