People are easily offended. You may even be offended by that statement, but it is generally true. For example, people are offended by annoying Facebook posts, the types of hats people wear, or the way people speak or don’t speak. Conversely, some live their lives with thick skin and a type of blissful apathy, but there are many who are quick to take their personal encounters personally even if they are not the direct recipient of said actions.
If you are like me, you struggle with taking things personally at times or being offended from time to time. Sometimes the flesh and mind can struggle with being angry when there is no rational reason to be angry. Due to this dilemma, I’d like to propose some principles to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in this situation. Reflect on these principles when any action or word may have offended you. Once you feel your emotions bubble up and you need help, these truths may help settle your heart during your unsettling circumstance.
1. Remember, Poor Communication Happens
Living in a post tower of Babel world (Gen 11), we are bent towards miscommunication. We may have been offended by a person’s tone, their poor word choice, their reactive language, or their stubborn ignorance, and it provokes our anger. Miscommunication is bound to happen in this fallen world, and we may be ascribing malicious intent to a person that has no ill-will towards us, but is instead just poor at communicating. Poor communication can be fixed and clarified, and we can deal graciously with it knowing that we ourselves do not speak in perfection all the time.
2. Remember, Disagreements Can Be a Good Thing
Disagreement is not inherently evil. Maybe you took offense a person disagreeing with you on a particular matter, and it truly angers you that they don’t see it from your perspective. Just remember this: That’s Okay! Our society equates disagreement with direct hatred and malice, when that surely is not always the case. Disagreements can happen in topics of lifestyle, preference, or liberty, but love can still thrive in the midst of disagreement. Just because someone is a contrarian to your viewpoint, does not automatically equate to a murder attempt. Instead of spiting them, dig deeper into the reasons for the opposition. Allow for the disagreement, because a little push back can help us grow. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Prov 27:17). It is a tough and grueling process to experience, but in the end there is growth.
3. Remember, Life Is Not About You
The flesh tries to promote self glory. Therefore, we are easily offended when someone goes against our opinions, our feelings, and our plans. We have made life all about us, and this is why we take things so personally. God calls believers to show a sacrificial love through inconvenient acts of service and self-denial, but that is something unnatural for us. In order to remedy this, we are to remember that life is not about us, it’s about the glory of Christ (Rom 11:36). It’s about promoting the majesty of Christ, rejoicing in the success of others, and serving their needs above our own (Phil 2:1-11). This will help promote humility in us and bring contentment to our souls.
4. Remember, Sin Struggles Hurt Others
When sin occurs in a person’s life, collateral damage takes place and the surrounding people get hurt. The consequences of their sins have immediate impact on their community. Sometimes, people in our lives will express the frustrations of their sins to those who are closest to them, and that is a heavy burden to bear. A personal sin struggle can distribute wide-spread damage like a wildfire and it might be us who end up are being burned. If this is the case, we must show mercy and grace to those who are fighting their weaknesses and sin-struggles. In snatching others out of the fire, we may get singed in the process. To help not take it personally, remember that the sin was not directed toward you, but that your hurting is a result of helping them be like Christ (service takes labor, Gal 4:19). We must show grace when this happens.
5. Remember, People Are Different
Another truth that helps calm our spirits is to remember that God made us all different (Ps 139:13-14). People have different ways of talking, different outlooks on life, different points of view, different manners of speech delivery, and different preferences. We must account for all of these things when we feel personally offended. Once we accept this in our heart, we will be more quick to forgive and to overlook any minor offenses that come our way. Someone may not be sinning against you, they may just be different than you. Remember, you are different too!
6. Remember, You May Be Wrong
This may be the hardest one to accept. Maybe we should not take offense at the interaction because we are the ones in the wrong. What if the issue is about us and something we did? If so, praise God! This person is bringing to our attention something that needs to be addressed, and that’s a good thing! Regardless of communication, intent, or delivery, a Christians glean wisdom from all circumstances despite the packaging or delivery method (Prov 1:5). God is using this circumstance to bring awareness so that we may deal with it accordingly. If it is a sin and a righteous confrontation, then our friend has shown love to our soul by pointing this out. Embrace it, and embrace them! We can now honor the Lord better because of it. Surely, this is not the time to nit-pick about delivery method or accuse them about their hypocrisy or imperfection. Instead, it is a time for self-reflection and a humble attitude that seeks to repent and to improve.