I’m going to regret this. I already know as I write these words that it won’t be long until I have to deal with it myself. I’m talking about the position of being offended.
We’ve all been offended. Sometimes it is because someone has insulted us or in some way demonstrated that they feel above us. Maybe they even dislike us. It hurts, we accept that hurt, and ruminate over it. We might even simmer in it. All the while the offender goes on their merry way not caring a bit for our pain. We usually call those people ‘jerks’ (among other things), and demonstrate in our name-calling the depth of our offense.
Sometimes people unintentionally offend. I think that is probably the most common. As brutal as this world can be, most of the people we are around are not going through the trouble to try to hurt us. Being human beings we can say things that come out the wrong way, or offer uninformed comments that bring about unintentional pain.
Either way, the state of being offended is in our control. It is a position that we take. Sometimes it is even warranted and we can demonstrate that we are in the right to take such a position. In doing so, however, we hand the reigns of our heart over to someone who has already offered to hurt us once. That doesn’t sound like a good idea. And the truth is that we hand the reigns over to the Enemy, who uses our offense to damage our own soul and those relationships that we should be seeking to enrich.
As a minister, I find that there are many opportunities to be offended. People decide they’d rather hear another preacher and leave the congregation. Some belittle ideas and programs that are meant to bring joy and energy to the church. Most ministers can tell you of people who portrayed themselves as friends, believing they might get some leverage with the church leadership. When that doesn’t happen, the ‘friendship’ is over.’ In reaction to these sorts of situations, some preachers develop an egotistical and prideful position. Then the stories are told of preachers who offend members of the church, but do not seem to care. I have seen preachers act in arrogant ways and wondered if the personal struggles of ministry turned them that way, or if they were just one of the ‘jerks’ we encounter in life! The knife cuts both ways, doesn’t it?
Offense happens when we personalize the things people say and do. In this case they often have no idea we are feeling offended … because there was no real offense at all. But if I begin to see the world through the eyes of my own little world, believing that everything is about ME … then offense is sure to come.
How can we escape the personalization of things said and done by others? Is there a way to escape the trap of always being offended? I think so. Keep in mind…
*Offense is always a matter of perspective. When you were offended, did you compare that offense to the dehumanizing experience of Jesus Christ immediately before the cross? This seems to be the approach of the writer to the Hebrews. “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:2).
I like how John Bevere writes about this:
Those who become offended do not fully realize how great a debt He has already paid for them to be free. They have forgotten from what manner of death they were delivered. They see through natural eyes rather than eternal. ~John Beaver
*What kind of spirit are you trying to foster in your own heart? If you enjoy being offended (and we have to believe some people do!), then just continue on. But I think most of us do not enjoy this, instead we would like to experience refreshing relationships that build up and do not tear down. Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Are you working harder to justify your offense or cover it up?
*What is the higher road that you can walk when offended? Getting even is human nature. Snarky commentary to try to put down the other person when we feel offended is actually quite easy and might even make us feel good for the moment. Especially is this true online, hiding behind a keyboard. However, in the long run, I think we will feel much better about taking the high road when it comes to dealing with an offense. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience;it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
*Decide ahead of time to show love when love has not been shown to you. One way to show love is to try to work through the issue. Is this the kind of relationship that you could have an honest discussion over coffee some afternoon? Maybe you can speak words of kindness about this person that they may ‘overhear’ from someone else at a later date. If it has been a case where someone has deliberately tried to hurt you, you still have the upper hand. You can choose how to respond. Jesus has given you the option of receiving a blessing instead of an offense.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~Matthew 5:11-12
As I said, I’m sure I’ll have to put this into practice soon! Not that people often offend me, they don’t! It’s just that about the time I feel I have mastered some area of my discipleship, a Godzilla-sized challenge comes along to put me to the test! I would ask you to try not to be my first challenge in the comments!
Thanks for reading,