20171002

Right Way To React When You Really Feel Offended

All it takes is a one hot minute of scrolling through social media and you’ll find it. Someone is offended or being offensive. They spew words of harm or gripe about what someone else is doing. We live in a polarized society where hot topics are often reduced to this or that debates and we demand someone else see the error of his or her ways. There is a tendency to say things in a virtual world we might not say in the real one. Of course, it’s not just social media either.

We all wrestle with healthy, productive responses when others don’t think like us, act us like us, or feel as passionate as we do about something. 

Whatever the case may be, perceived or actual harm, what can we do?

We can start by asking a few questions to promote self-reflection and help us step into growth with God. And if we are brave, we could ask them of someone trustworthy. Do they see us doing these things? If they know us well, they will be able to give insight we can’t see on our own.

1. Am I expecting the other person to do and say what I think they should do and say? 
What others say and do is not in my control, it is God’s. It’s not my job to get others to live the way I think is right. It’s not my responsibility to own what other people say, do, or feel. I am responsible for responding faithfully to God’s work in my life.

I don’t know about you, but living with offense and grumbling is exhausting! I don’t want to live that way. I have enough of my own sin to deal with without carrying the weight of others’ imperfections.

When we are confident in who we are as image bearers of God, and when we can experience more of the wholeness of Christ in our lives, we are less likely to be detoured by offenses. Again, it’s a journey. We start where we are.

2. Do I have unrealistic expectations for the other person? 
Sometimes we put expectations on others that have no basis in reality. For example, if we expect someone who is continuously hot-headed to suddenly act calm and kind, we will be disappointed.

Am I expecting something from someone without reason to believe they are capable, apart from supernatural intervention? Should I consider the behavior I want to see as a goal to work towards or a finish line I think should be met already?

3. Am I taking someone’s words and actions as truth about who I am? 
When someone does something hurtful or unkind, what does it say about me? If I jump to the conclusion that I am horrible person, I may have made an assumption and attributed intent that wasn’t there. Even if his or her words are meant to label me as someone I don’t believe I am, or want to be, I can choose to stand on the truth of who God says I am.

It is important to note that when someone causes harm, especially on an intentional and/or repeated basis, we need to reevaluate the relationship. We may need to set boundaries and limits with how much we engage with them. Though there may be legitimate reasons for feeling offended, we will need to work on how that offense is dealt with in our lives. If we don’t, we’ll bear an extra burden of hurt, which could lead to further harm.

4. How much of God’s forgiveness have I accepted? 
Do I understand the value of God’s forgiveness for my sins? Without knowing the depth of God’s redemptive work on the cross and what it means for me, I may struggle to forgive others. When I find God’s redemption worthy of accepting, I am less likely to be weighed down by offense.

5. Is there underlying hurt that needs healing? 
If I am feeling offended easily and often, or if I am often weighed down by the way others act, could this be more about my hurt and less about their actions? I can ask God to show me where he wants to heal.

I’ve found that the more my heart heals from past hurts and distorted belief systems, the more I’m able to tolerate the offensive words and actions of others. It’s a journey with many steps, and I’m still taking them.

Additionally, Tied to hurt, you’ll usually find some level of shame. Hurt and shame can stay buried for years. When they do, their impact multiplies. We can become quick to judge and ruled by emotion. One of the greatest keys to feeling less offended is working through the things that cause us hurt and shame.

6. Is there something I did to contribute to this situation? 
I am not without sin or imperfections. These may get in the way of how I see the whole picture of an offensive situation. I am willing to hear conviction from the Holy Spirit and respond as God leads.

Perhaps it would help to think back on a specific incident when you became angry or hurt because of what someone else said, did, or neglected to say/do. What about that interaction was offensive? Did you react defensively or respond in a healthy way?

I tend to furrow my eyebrows, scrunch my face, and sigh with disgust. Hopefully, I sense the Spirit’s conviction when this happens so I can catch my attitude before making things worse. That doesn’t always happen though. I wish it did.

7. Do I value the other person as a flawed and loved human creation of God? 
We are sinners who sin. Sin is full of offensive and harmful actions and we will encounter this on a regular basis. Even the truths of God are offensive at times because they point to areas of our heart not fully surrendered to Him. Any time we supplement God’s truth for our truth, His truth offends.

Often, we feel or say, “I’m offended,” when what we really mean is, “I’m hurt by what you said (or did).” Or, “I don’t agree with what you said (or did).” Another person’s words and deeds might truly be harmful, but sometimes they aren’t.

I can remember that other people are flawed, as I am also. God is the creator all mankind and we are all in need of God’s love.

Friend, our experiences are valid. They are ours. We must choose to let God help us sort through them so we are less easily offended and less likely to offend.

[written by Jolene Underwood