“throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” – Ephesians 4: 22-24.
Let’s be totally honest for a few seconds. We’ve all got some narcissistic tendencies. No one’s exempt. That being said, I don’t want to offend anybody by suggesting that all people are self-absorbed. What I am suggesting is that having hurt feelings and being easily offended is almost always a result of being too preoccupied with “self”: “He didn’t like my idea.” “She was too blunt for my liking.” “They totally ignored me.” “He didn’t thank me.” “My wife doesn’t appreciate all I do.” “My husband takes me for granted.” Being offended is often produced by self concerns.
Offense seems to be an obligation. A natural response to someone else. When we see things that we do not like, we feel we have no choice but to become upset. And express it adamantly. Being constantly offended can do significant harm to relationships. The solution is to change the central focus of our lives off ourselves and onto others. It’s hard to become offended if you are valuing others better than yourself.
As Christians, it is not about the person offending us, it is about how we choose to respond. When Jesus calls us to love our enemies, we might wonder what that really means in practice. Surely, we’re not going to get all warm and fuzzy when we think about those who have hurt or offended us. But that is exactly the kind of robust, challenging love envisioned by Jesus, a love that is more about action than about feelings. Making this choice to love and not be offended, however, is difficult. Here are a few ways to help you change how you respond.
Ask yourself these questions: What would happen if you didn’t allow yourself to go there? What if you stopped and said – “Why am I getting mad about this…does this really warrant getting offended?” What would have happened if I didn’t allow myself to be offended? What if we sit back and consider the fact that being offended does not mean it is offensive. While that is the goal, it is easier said than done to be sure.
Small issues can grow larger when we are perpetually offended. Offense has a subtle way of creeping into each relationship we have in life. One or the other person gets upset or gets in a funk, that can spiral into resentment and bitterness.
I’ve said it before. Loving our enemies is not easy. Nor is it easy to not be offended. But this is the way of Jesus.
- How do you change your focus from yourself to others? Would that help you be less offended? Why or why not?
- Have you ever prayed or forgiven someone who was speaking poorly of you? How did it feel? What happened inside of you when you did this?
- Have you ever prayed for those who hurt you? Are there people in your life right now who are seeking to harm you, for whom you need to pray?
- What keeps you from not being offended?