Are you easily offended? I used to be. Thankfully I’m not as much anymore. What’s the difference? I don’t allow it as often.
But you might say, “How can you choose not to be offended? What if you can’t help it? Doesn’t it just happen automatically?”
I believe the answer is yes and no. 🙂 How’s that for clarity??
The Yes part
I believe we all have emotionally sensitive spots within us. You may call them “hot buttons.” They come from the hurts and wounds of our past. For instance, one sore spot with me is being ignored. If I feel that I’ve been left out of an important conversation or event, I will automatically react and feel hurt. Why? Because that was one of the things that happened in my childhood. I was not included then, and I often felt ignored and unwanted. I’m reminded of the feelings of rejection and dismissal.
So if the circumstances are similar, I am highly tempted to be hurt and offended.
We may be sensitive to being treated disrespectfully. Having our children lash out at us with disrespect can provoke huge feelings of offense. When we feel that we’re not appreciated, or find our sincere efforts met with ingratitude, it may incite our hurt.
The No Part
But I don’t have to allow these feelings to continue. I can engage in some firm self-talk, truth-telling. Maybe I remind myself that the slight was not intentional, that I don’t need to be involved in everything, that it does not diminish my worth in God’s sight. He still loves me unfailingly even though these people have rejected me or left me out. For me to nurse this grievance or indulge in my hurt feelings will result in bad things. If I stew in my offense and let it grow, I will eventually arrive at anger. Maybe I’ll be angry at the people who left me out or maybe I’ll be angry with myself or with God. it doesn’t matter, I will be angry.
And Anger is Dangerous
So, this is the scary part. Once I arrive at anger, it’s a short trip to resentment and then eventually, bitterness. Anger is the beginning, the doorway to these other deadly sins.
And the Bible has a lot to say about anger,
In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27
Anger is an opportunity for the devil to gain a perch or foothold in our lives. Thereafter, he will have the opportunity to more easily tempt us from his entrenched position as we give in to our anger. We find that one angry word leads to several, and the situation escalates from there.
Proverbs 29:22 An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.
Ecclesiastes 5:6 says “Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.” Obviously, our mouths are the place our angry words spew from. And Luke 6:45 tells us that our words are an overflow of our hearts. When our hearts are offended, our words will reflect it.
So, one thing I’ve done when tempted to anger is to ask the Lord to keep my mouth shut! You can’t get into trouble if you don’t say anything at all. “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” (Proverbs 17:28). This includes not responding to an email or text message until I’ve had time to think it through and gain control.
It Is A Choice
I was chatting with a woman I know, and she began criticizing someone I love dearly. I didn’t say anything, because I was shocked into silence. I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing! As I walked away, I was fuming internally and thinking about how I might have responded. But later, I decided I was going to let this go and cover it over with love (I Peter 4:8). Why? Because I believe she didn’t think about what she was saying, and she obviously didn’t recognize how it affected me. And because I know I need to grow in grace, patience, and the wisdom that the Lord gives, I’m choosing not to be offended by her.
Proverbs 19:11 tells us that “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
I know that I need to exercise more self-control and wisdom when it comes to my mouth. If I found out that this woman was repeatedly saying such things, I might choose to lovingly confront her, but not this time. And I want to foster love and avoid anger. James 1:20 says that our anger doesn’t help us live more righteously, as God desires us to.
The point is, I do have a choice. My initial disbelief and annoyance was a natural reaction, but my actions and choices after that were deliberate. And each situation is different, there are times to confront and times to let it go. We must ask the Lord to lead us and guide us in such situations.