If we are going to keep it real, you and I have taken offense at one time or another.
Taking offense is pervasive in our society. The statistics on road rage are staggering. Offense is responsible for many of the squabbles in churches, among Christians, friends, family, and colleagues. We take offense when someone cuts us off in traffic or when we perceive a threat or feel insulted by another’s words or actions.
The truth about offense is that most times, we interpret other people’s actions through our own perceptions. While others may not intend any harm, we allow our minds to interpret their actions or words as offensive.
What is offense?
The dictionary defines an offense as an annoyance brought about by a perceived insult. To feel offended is to take something personally.
Thinking about offense reminded me of an arcade game, Whack-a-mole, that my kids used to play at Chuck E. Cheese’s when they were younger.
The game involved a player using a mallet to beat down (Whack) moles that pop up randomly. The goal was to see how fast and how many times you can whack the moles. Offenses are like the mallet that the enemy uses to beat us down in life’s game of Whack-a-mole.
Let me tell you about two brothers and how offense interrupted their lives. Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain, the older brother was a farmer while Abel was a shepherd. During the harvest time, the brothers offered sacrifices to the Lord. Cain presented some of his crops while Abel offered the best portion of his livestock as a sacrifice. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s offering. (Genesis 4:1-8)
Cain took offense at his brother Abel. He was angry because God rejected his sacrifice. The Lord warned Cain.
Watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master. Genesis 4:7
Despite the Lord’s warning, Cain allowed the offense to whack him. He was disgruntled. He harbored feelings of resentment and anger towards Abel. Eventually, he killed his brother. Taking offense is one of the tactics the enemy uses to whack us down, keep us off track and lead us to sin against others. Every time we choose to take an offense, we allow the enemy to whack us, steal from us and destroy us.
Why do we get offended?
We are all predisposed to taking offense. We take offense when someone says something negative about us or when we feel threatened. We become very sensitive, overreact and take things personally. A false perspective of security lies at the heart of offense. If our sense of identity or security is rooted in ourselves, or our performance, then we are quick to react negatively and take offense easily. However, if our sense of security is not rooted in ourselves, our response and actions to an offense will be more balanced.
Cain’s sacrifice reflects of his sense of security. He was more concerned about pleasing himself than God. Abel’s security was rooted in God hence he gave the best of his livestock as an offering to God.
What can you do when you feel offended?
- The best way to handle taking offense is to address our own insecurities. For example, I might ask myself, “Why does this bother me?” This self-reflection is a crucial step in how we respond to an offense.
- Prayer is the first line of defense when dealing with an offense. Pray and ask for wisdom to differentiate minor offenses from bigger issues. Pray about how to respond.
- Choose to give grace. Explore alternative reasons for the person’s actions as you think about how you can extend grace. Most times people act out of their own pain. We can choose to overlook the offense.
- Choose to forgive and let it go!
- If there is a need to address an offense, we must confront in love.
- Pick your battles wisely.
So here is the truth, offenses are a given, this is a part of life.
But we don’t have to take offense. We can choose to deal with an offense in a godly way and enjoy peace as described in these scriptures.
Don’t be quick to fly off the handle.
Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head. Ecclesiastes 7:9 (MSG)
Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering. Proverbs 10:12 (MSG)
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. Isaiah 32:17 (NIV)
Next time a driver cuts you off in traffic or someone’s action offends you, what will your response be? I welcome your thoughts and comments.