“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”
Are you easily offended? Does this disturb your peace?
Unfortunately, people sometimes say and do things that are careless, blunt, insensitive, or even mean-spirited. While we can’t control the intentions or behavior of others, we can determine how we will act. We can choose to not be offended.
“I can’t believe you eat so much macaroni and hot dogs! They’re all starch and trans fats!” a friend told me recently. She was over for a short visit and couldn’t help peering into my open cabinet and seeing the boxes of Mac & Cheese as I put something away.
I could feel my hackles starting to rise. What would motivate someone to make a remark like that? It would never occur to me to critique what other people have in their kitchen cupboards. Still, I told myself my friend probably meant well. After all, she studied nutrition in college, and often brags about her degree in Culinary Arts and how that was “her thing.” In her own way, she was probably trying to show concern. So, I simply smiled, shrugged and replied, “You’re right. They’re not exactly nutritious. But I have to buy what I can afford.”
This response is what I call the “Value-the-Other-Person’s Perspective” approach. You let the other person know you can see some truth to what they just said. Sure, it would have been easy to take offense at my friend’s words, but why? In the broad scheme of things, does it really matter that my friend doesn’t agree with all of my grocery purchases? Obviously, it doesn’t. If I would have challenged her on what she said, that may have led to an argument. Instead, after my response, my friend smiled back. Then we began to talk about something totally different, and had a fairly pleasant conversation ….
I wish I could say I always respond to offensive remarks in this way, but I don’t. Sometimes I let other people’s careless, blunt, or insensitive words rub me the wrong way. I feel hurt, upset, insulted, snubbed, slighted, wronged, or worse. Sometimes, I’m just not able to let the comments just slide, without making some kind of comeback; usually inappropriate …
Chances are, you can relate. From time to time, probably most of us find ourselves offended by something someone said, or perhaps didn’t say. You don’t get invited to a party that everyone else you know is going to…. Your boss commends your coworker in the company meeting, but doesn’t acknowledge any of your efforts…. You don’t receive a thank you card for the birthday gift you gave someone…. Your son sits out on the bench the entire baseball game, while the coach’s son and his circle of friends play the whole time…. You see someone close to you give away something to someone else, obviously having forgotten that you gave it to them…. It can be difficult to overlook these kinds of annoyances ….
Yet, we must. The Bible admonishes us to not be oversensitive: “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:
For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).
We know that part of the fruit of God’s Spirit is love. In (1 Corinthians 13:5), we’re told that a vital aspect of love is to not be easily provoked or stirred to anger.
Those who really love God’s law and understand His Word will not allow small irritants and annoyances to drive a wedge between others and themselves. They know how easy it is to cause others offense. (Proverbs 11:12) says, “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.”
Certainly, these verses are not telling us we should never confront another person about a serious problem. There are times when we do need to go to our brother, as commanded in (Matthew 18:15-17). However, confronting others should not be something we are doing on a regular basis. You don’t want to be the proverbial “contentious woman” (or man) who is just itching to be offended, all-too-ready to tell others off, and hence, put them in their place. No one wants to spend time around someone like that ….
Of course, some people aren’t “confrontational,” but may get just as offended regardless. Rather than pick a fight with the offender, they stew about what the person said or did, harboring all kinds of negative emotions. That’s not good, either. These kinds of feelings can grow and fester, and turn someone into an angry, bitter, miserable person. It can also lead to grudges. I know people who have spent years estranged from once good friends over relatively small offenses …
The fact of the matter is; offenses are going to come our way. When they do, it’s okay to admit that it hurts. However, we don’t have to get upset about it, or allow it to cause a root of bitterness spring up (Hebrew’s 12:15). We can choose to not be offended. It says in (Colossians 3:13) that we should be tolerant and kind: “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Here are some suggestions for how to do just that:
Get your forcus off “self” ~
Having hurt feelings and being easily offended is almost always a result of being too preoccupied with “self”: “No one liked my ideas”….. “They hardly talked to me at all” … “He didn’t even thank me” …. “No one ever asks for my opinion or cares what I think” …..
I can see it in some of my own interactions. The reason I sometimes feel offended is because someone else was getting recognition, and not me. That’s not to say it is wrong to hope for a compliment. We all like and need praise and acknowledgments. Everyone likes that kind of positive feedback. But even I often need to pray to get my mind off of self concerns”…..
If you find yourself getting irritated because someone else is in the limelight, think about that person’s good qualities. Try to see why he or she is being praised. Ask God to help you be happy for others when they are successful.
If you are upset because you didn’t get your way or someone pointed out some of your shortcomings, ask God to help you cultivate more of a humble mindset. You may not want to hear it, but there may very well be others who have more expertise in a particular area than you do. It’s hard to become offended if you are esteeming others better than yourself, and valuing what they have to offer. Truly, one of the best ways to keep from becoming offended is to get your focus off yourself… and onto others.
Examine your own feelings and emotions ~
Typically, people who are easily offended are over-sensitive about too many things. They seem to have a chip on their shoulders, and are very quick to interpret even the most innocent comments as an offense. They become offended, not so much because of what was said or done to them, but because of inner, personal struggles ….
A friend told me how she felt insulted when another woman came up to her, introduced herself, and then looked her squarely in the eyes and asked, “How old are you?” My friend, incredulous that someone she just met would be so forward, stuttered, “Umm, uh, uh…” Then, before she could come up with an appropriate answer, the woman demanded, “Are you 52? You look like you’re in your 50’s.” My friend, who was 42, could hardly believe someone could be so brusque. She replied, “Do I really look that old?” to which the woman answered back with another question, “Well, are you 48?” My friend never really answered, but admits to feeling “really irritated and quite offended” with this person.
Unquestionably, going up to someone you just met and boldly asking her age is not exhibiting a lot of tact. However, after my friend started thinking about what happened, she realized the real problem wasn’t so much the perceived offense, as much as she was having a difficult time coming to terms with getting older. She knew she was aging and didn’t like what she saw in the mirror. That was the real reason she was upset ….
If you find yourself easily upset with others, examine yourself to see if something is going on in your life to make you more irritable. Are you blaming others for offending you, when in reality you wouldn’t be upset if you had already dealt with certain “hot-button” issues in your life? Ask God to help you get over these wounds, emotional scars and insecurities, so they’re no longer driving a wedge between yourself and others.
Be mindful of others backgrounds ~
Always take other people’s backgrounds into account. We all have different reasons for doing the things we do. Sometimes what seems to be a major offense is simply a reflection of a different personality, upbringing, cultural background or lifestyle. Sometimes a person may be more qualified or anointed of God for a specific ministry or task, and there’s no reason to become overly sensitive simply because their calling or journey may be different than yours …
Next time you find yourself taking offense to something, try to imagine yourself in the other person’s situation. Remind yourself that he or she may not be coming from the same perspective as you. What once seemed like a huge offense may no longer be one ….
Heavenly Father, how I thank You for my salvation, which You have given to all of us as a free gift of grace, by faith in the Lord Jesus. Thank You also that Your Holy Spirit has made me alive in Him and placed me into the family of God and the body of Christ.
Thank You that He has set His seal of ownership upon me and taken up residence within my heart so as to empower me in my spiritual walk, as He gradually transforms me into a lovely likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
I pray that the Holy Spirit would lead and guide me in all things, and that I would learn to listen to the gentle promptings of His voice as I read Your Word or commune with You in prayer.
Give me grace to recognize His still small voice as I search though the scriptures each day, and furnish me with the wisdom I need to discern Your spiritual nudges, through godly Christians, who may be prompted to offer direction or give me advice.
May I maintain an open heart and develop a teachable spirit, and not be easily offended due to my own personal insecurities. I pray that may I walk in Your ways and live a life that is well pleasing to You and which glorifies my Father in heaven, I ask this in Jesus name, Amen ….