While a husband was lying down, his wife came up and removed his glasses. She said, “Without your glasses on, you look great. Just like the young man I married.” He replied, “Without my glasses on, you look pretty good too!” Even when we’re a little more sensitive than this, it is easy to offend. It is also easy to be offended, and offence can rob us of valuable relationships and even ultimately rob God of … us! Proverbs 18:19 says that offended people are harder to win than a walled city. Offended people build their own walls after one attack too many has had them decide to avoid further intrusions. So, how can offence be overcome?
- Choose freedom. We all need to be able to identify offences as obstacles on life’s path, so as to remove them. Defining them so as to minimise their impact may deceive you into missing their reality as stumbling blocks and not mere pebbles. After all, the biblical word for offence translates as ‘scandal’, something perceived as outrageously offensive. Emotions are the key to what is lurking, but unseen, especially if we are kidding ourselves that we live free. In the Parable of the Sower, we are told that our life can’t support the seeds of growth in the face of any adversity if the seeds are in rocky ground (Matthew 13:20-21). We need to get rid of the rocks or the slightest trouble will rock us. Past hurts and obstacles will always interfere with present successes and we sometimes need to trust key people to help us be rid of them. It is too easy otherwise to deflect attention from what is too painful or burdensome to deal with.
- Own your attitude. Although people have an ideal obligation to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), they often don’t. Rather than justify offences and reactions on account of others’ behaviour, it is far more helpful to confront people the right way and to then resolve to readjust your attitude if this becomes unsuccessful. For example, we can combat a lack of truth or a lack of love in others by ourselves choosing to speak truth …. in love. That means no gossip or destructive criticism either. Rational conversations, apologies or preferred agreements may not happen, but we can choose the way of forgiveness in spite of the actions and inactions of others. We can follow Jesus’ example for dealing with conflict by seeking restored relationships and pursuing mediation. But our attitude must be our responsibility and not dependent on what others do or don’t do, which is ultimately out of our control.