Monday, November 11, 2013

Are You Easily Offended?

Beautiful flowering tree on Anna Maria Island
     I remember in the early days of our marriage I had a good friend who taught me many things.          Penny was a fantastically talented young homemaker.  She cooked well, kept a very tidy home, sewed clothing and coats for her family like a professional, could knit, crochet (she taught me how), embroider and even do ceramics well.  I marveled at how well she took care of her family.
     While I enjoyed her helpful suggestions and recipes, there came a time when she came into my home and took over in my kitchen one evening without me asking for any help.   Then, she made several off the cuff remarks about my cooking, and I could feel the hackles begin to rise.  I hadn't asked her for a critique or assistance.  I knew I was being overly sensitive, but I could never envision myself walking into to someone else's home and taking over.  However, that evening I told her I appreciated her help in the kitchen and her good ideas but I just had to learn how to do some things on my own.  We changed the subject and the rest of the evening went smoothly.  I wish I could honestly write that I have responded to intrusive actions or offensive remarks as well as I did this evening, but I am human with a sin nature.  Sometimes I let other people's insensitive remarks rub me the wrong way.  I become upset, insulted, irritated and wronged, and I cannot let the subject drop.
     Possibly, there are some of you out there that can relate to this.  Someone makes a suggestion to you innocently at the office and you think they are attacking your intelligence.  Why are you so sensitive?  Why do you take offense so easily?  Why do I?  Whenever these situations arise for us, we must turn to God's Word for the answer.
     In Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, Solomon writes:  "Do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.  For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others."  Ouch!  Truth hurts doesn't it?  It is so easy to take offense at what someone says to us forgetting that we may have offended them as well at one time or another.
     According to I Corinthians 13:5, we are to love others so that we are not easily provoked to anger by something they do or say.  Likewise, we are not to allow the small irritations of daily living and communication drive a wedge between ourselves and others.  We need to let it go for the sake of unity.  Otherwise, if we harbor negative emotions thinking others are picking on us, we will soon become an angry and bitter person.  The quickest way to ruin family relationships or workplace environments is to be overly sensitive and take offense at everything.
     Obviously, there are times when we need to confront another who has hurt our feelings, but we are to do so in love not with vengeance in our heart.  However, if we find ourselves confronting others day in and day out, we better check our motives and ask ourselves if we are looking for trouble.
     Certainly, the Lord told us that in this world we would have trouble and offenses are definitely a part of that.  It is okay to admit that we have been hurt by what someone said or did, but we can choose to not be offended.  Colossians 3:13 tells us that we should be "bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do."  This is not always easy to do, but it is a command to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us.
     Here are some suggestions to help us avoid taking offense all the time:
     1)  Take Your Eyes Off "Self" - We can always tell when we think more of ourselves than of others when we start saying things like:  "She was short with me today"; "That person barely spoke to me"; "He never said 'Thank you' for all my hard work".  Instead of assuming what others are thinking, why don't we try to ask more questions.  Go start up a conversation with that person instead of feeling like they are ignoring you.  Allow others to be in the spotlight at times and if we still feel hurt because we didn't get our way or someone pointed out our shortcomings, we need to take it to God and ask Him to help us develop a humble attitude.  We may not like it that someone else may know more than we do in a certain area but we need to have an outlook that esteems others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
     2)  Look at Your Feelings -  Often those of us who are easily offended are over-sensitive on many other issues as well.  It could be that we have areas of unresolved scars, emotional issues that act like a "hot button" for us when someone says something out of turn.  We need to ask the Lord to help us sort out why we react the way we do and how to resolve the issue.
     3) Get Rid of Unfair Expectations - At times, we are expecting certain behaviors from other people and when they do not display this, we are disappointed or take offense.  We are not going to have perfect co-workers, family members or even friends.  So, when they do not perform as we expect, show them grace just as God has shown us grace.  We will be more tolerant of others if we remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:18:  "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find."  None of us has it all together.  Don't live with unrealistic expectations of others.
     4) Assume the best in others - We have to keep in mind that the person who offends us may really have our best interest at heart.  They may never have meant to hurt us at all.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Consider that maybe the person who has just stepped on our toes was distracted with something else when they said what they said or maybe they were not feeling well.  Often people don't think how their words are perceived.  Therefore, we need to try to avoid building an entire case against that person.  We cannot change others.  We can only change ourselves with God's help.  This is part of the "Bomb Shell theory" and I find it good advice for us all.  We have to remember that God is the only one who can change a heart.  We all have different personalities and sometimes we do rub one another the wrong way.  It is what we do with our feelings that makes a difference.
     Finally, consider how unlovely, unlovable, dead in sin and disagreeable we were before our holy, righteous God.  Yet, He sent His only Son to die for us that we might be redeemed.  If God can forgive us after all the offense of our sin and rebellion, we must learn to do likewise through the strength of the Holy Spirit working in us.  Remember, how we behave in front of others is often the way they will perceive all Christians.  Mickey Evans (Pastor and director of Dunklin Memorial Camp years ago) stated:  "It is better to be righteous than right."  When it comes to taking offense easily over what others do or say, we need to follow this wisdom.  Let our walk be righteous
before the Lord that we might glorify Him.  Selah!

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