Who among us HASN’T ever been offended? Seriously. No one, right? It is so easy to have our feathers ruffled by something that someone has said or done. For me, the hardest thing isn’t when someone does or says something to hurt or offend me—it’s when I hear about someone I love getting hurt or offended. I try to keep short accounts. But hurt someone I love? Now THAT’s a different story.
About six months ago, I had a close friend tell me about someone who had offended her. I honestly can’t even remember what it was specifically about that person that had rubbed her the wrong way. But as she was telling me the story, I could feel my spirit inside saying, “NOOOOOO!!!” Because I knew. STOP now or I can never NOT know this information. I will ALWAYS remember that they hurt you. But I wasn’t courageous enough to speak up and stop the dishonoring words against this person.
And I have paid the price for that.
It’s been six months of trying to get the impact of those dishonoring words out of my mind and heart. Just this morning, I was praying about this same offender that had hurt my friend, because I see her a lot now. We are in a mutual social group together and I really like her. But I’ve had a hard time getting past the words that were spoken against her. And so I prayed, “Father, please take these word burrs out of my spirit, soul, and mind. I’m having a hard time seeing this person as YOU see them. I’m having a REALLY hard time getting past previous words. Please show me the truth of how YOU see her.”
OFFENSE is such a persnickety, tricky, sticky thing.
I see people get stuck in offenses all the time. For some, it’s just every once in a while. But with others, it seems to be their default setting. Don’t we all have those people in our lives that when we see them heading our way, we walk in a different direction so we don’t cross paths? Because we know. If I talk to this person, I will be stuck for ten minutes listening to them rant and rave about ALL of the people and places that have offended them and done them wrong.
It’s so draining to listen to that particular type of dishonoring word barrage—the endless discontent. It’s a total downer. I’ve had to develop better boundaries so that I can stop or interrupt these types of conversations. Otherwise, it just feels like someone is verbally throwing up all over me.
But what about the people I’m invested in that just need some good talk-therapy, processing time? Often, they share specifics on other people I know. Yet I know that a lot of what people share comes out of a deep place of pain. It’s not meant as gossip. So I have had to learn how to combine compassionate listening with having “eyes to see”—recognizing that there is always another side to the story and that more is ALWAYS going on than what appears easily to the human eye.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood. People are not our enemy.
People hurt people. People have bad social experiences. I TOTALLY get that. I’ve been there a bazillion times myself. And really broken people tend to cause more casualties than others, as well as hold onto more offenses. I’ve seen and experienced that personally as well. But I also understand that each and every one of us is in the middle of our own life process. Each one of us is overcoming issues and pain from our past and is trying to move forward in our lives toward victory and fulfillment. Every one of us is in our own love story with our Redeemer—Jesus, who walks with us and heals and restores our hearts as we walk with Him.
Offense is a dangerous road to walk.
The danger with offense is twofold. First, it hurts our own heart and blocks our ability to be fruitful and free. Offense is the beginning point on the scale of unforgiveness. It can start small—with a small offense against us or others that we love, but it usually grows over time into full-on resentment, bitterness and an inability to let go and forgive. Much is written about the dangers of unforgiveness. But suffice it to say that it is a major road-blocker in our lives.
The second danger with offense is the impact upon the actual offender—the person that initially caused the offense. The offender’s reputation often gets tarnished because of subsequent judgment that WE facilitate. We speak dishonoring words against them. We tell and retell the stories—with our spin put upon them. We form character judgments against them. We take their actions, behaviors, or mistakes and we turn them into brandings. And therein lies the Scriptural danger of judgment—it’s not about recognizing unhealthy, unholy, or unwise behaviors. The danger lies where we become the judge and take the external behavior and attribute it to the person’s internal reality and character.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone at some point and place in their life has hurt another person or done something stupid or unwise. But the danger of judgement and offense lies in the branding. The danger lies in categorizing them as outside of the realm of God’s restorative grace. Because no one is exempt from God’s transforming love.
God’s heart culture is one of love. And we were created to live life in a culture of honor with everyone.
God made us all in His image. We are each responsible to build people up, not tear them down. Even those that have hurt or offended us—they are not excluded from God’s love or redemptive power being at work in their lives. But unfortunately, we can often get stuck obsessing about another person’s offenses.
This reminds me of a time in the Chronicles of Narnia Series where one of the Pevensie children asks Aslan about another person in the story. Aslan replies, “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
We are only responsible for our own story.
We can’t control other people. We are not their savior and we are not their judge. God is to be both of those things—not us. What we ARE responsible for is to live our lives in a way that honors others and trusts God’s Holy Spirit to have his perfect and complete work in each of us—including those that frustrate and hurt us. We are NOT meant to convict others. That is His job.
Our job is simply to love and honor people. We don’t have to deny or negate that we are hurt—but we can refuse to let those feelings take the throne in our lives. We can refuse those offenses any place of influence. We can refuse to perpetuate the pain and branding. We can choose instead to trust God, to trust His ultimate justice system—that He will repay us for the things the locusts have stolen, and we can choose to trust that He is doing a work in our offender’s life as well.
And if you ask Him—if you have a heart that really wants to understand, God will often trust you with knowing things that are going on behind the scenes. I know this because I have experienced it twice just recently. On two separate occasions, I had friends share people-specific incidences where they and their families had been hurt. I remember the pain in their experiences. And I also remember God’s gentle Spirit chiming in that there was more to the story.
Sure enough, within a couple of months, God actually orchestrated divine meetings for me with both of these men. Both men are active in the community and in the public eye. With one of them, I had felt the temptation to believe everything that I had heard. But because I kept my heart open to His perspective and correction, God ended up showing me His thoughts and intentions towards them. He showed me their gifts, their callings, their hearts, and even some of the motivations behind past actions.
The game plan is always about redemption.
When God reveals His heart for a person, it is always full of His glory and redemption. God reveals His Original Design and Intention for the individual. His revelation is always full of hope. Even if there is dirt in the person’s past, God always reveals the treasure. He always chooses to see people in the light of who they were created to be and in the fulfillment of His plans for them.
We are to do likewise.
Let’s become UN-Offendable.
After all, the goal IS transformation…
Becoming more like Him…
From glory to glory…
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).