One of my favorite moments in the classic movie, “Forest Gump,” happens when Forest shares that one day, for no particular reason, he decided to go for a run. Over the past few months, as I have scrolled through social media and contemplated the current climate and condition of our society, I find myself wondering if many of us are saying a similar statement to Forests’: “One day, for no particular reason, I decided to be offended.”
Have you noticed this? With cancel culture, political correctness and all the rules of what we can and can’t say, I find myself asking: is everyone offended? It seems like offense has become a right, and that being offended validates your opinion or perspective. I would argue that we can be so empowered and emboldened by our own perspective that we cancel any conflicting viewpoint.
I want to bring some truth to this subject. The reality is, we all get offended. Jesus said in Luke 17:1, “It is impossible that no offenses should come….” The word for “offenses” in this text means “snare” or “trap.” Every offense is a trap: a trap of pride, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, envy, anger and more. Offense baits us into something that will undermine our purpose and even our quality of existence. So, how do we respond to being offended? I believe I have some answers.
1. An offense is an event, being offended is a choice.
Read that again. We will all encounter offenses, but we get to decide what we will do with them. You are not in control of what people do, but you are in control of how you respond. You can take it to heart, you can be offended, or you can let it go. You don’t have to take the bait of every offense you are offered. You can make the decision to just “let it go” (you can even sing the song when you do). You don’t have to take the bait. My advice is to admit that it bothered you and then excuse it without taking it to heart, or formulating a rebuttal or a counterattack.
2. Being offended does not mean you are right.
The greatest concern I have right now is the belief that being offended means you are right.
We need to be able to listen, slow to judge, emotionally intelligent, equipped to handle conflict and patient. If we are lacking in these areas, we might be more vulnerable to offense. Remember: just because something rubs you the wrong way doesn’t mean it is wrong, but it might mean you are.
3. Staying offended gives someone else influence in your life.
This is the big one. Offense for the most part works like unforgiveness (feel free to apply your favorite verse or sermon on forgiveness here). Offense, like unforgiveness, causes us to live in reaction to someone else. Essentially, we have surrendered some of the control we are supposed to have over ourselves to someone else. If you are offended, you are in living in reaction to what someone else said or did and as such that person is now setting the agenda for your life. You know what is worse than being offended? Allowing the offending party to determine the course or quality of your life.
Now that we have looked at a few ideas to contemplate as we process offense, let’s talk about leaving it behind. Here are three steps to take when you are dealing with an offense.
1. Look in.
A great place to start is by asking the question, “Why am I offended?” or “Why did that affect me that way?” These questions help us to look inside ourselves first. The other person could be in the wrong, but I need to start by looking inside. Offense can be an opportunity for growth if you treat it that way. You can’t change them, but if their actions or words hit something in you that you need to evaluate and potentially change, you can grow from it.
2. Look up.
I think the real problem in our society is our lack of love and grace—two core ingredients to forgiveness. The Bible says, “God is love” and He pours his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. He also came to this world “full of grace.” Our disconnection from Him hinders our love for one another and our grace to forgive others. Check your connection to Him. Ask Him to fill you with love and grace for those around you, especially those who offend you.
Swallow your right to be right and make the hard choice to forgive those who have hurt you. I am not suggesting you trust them, or try to remain close with them, but I am suggesting you forgive them. Forgiving someone means that you accept the consequence for what they have done, but you release them from the obligation to make it right. I know that isn’t fair, but it does allow you to take back the territory and power that you surrendered to the person who wronged you.
Every one of us is going to be offended at some point, but we don’t have to get trapped by it. The next time you find yourself offended, try implementing the tips listed above and see if it helps leaving offense behind.