You know at some point in our lives, in fact often, we are going to get offended. It is a natural, normal rhythm of life. The sooner we embrace that truth, the sooner we will set ourselves free from a lot of needless hurt, pain, and disappointment.
Yet, why is it that when someone hurts us, or fails us we want to execute them. Sentence them to life imprisonment without hope of parole. Why are we all so condemning and harsh when in reality we all fail, we all fall short, we all need forgiveness and grace daily in our lives. Whether it is the person we offended at the office unknowingly, or the spouse we have neglected unwittingly, or the kids we promised to spend time with that we just can never seem to make the time for. Whatever it is, big or small, YOU, ME and WE have offended others in our walk. We will do so until the day we die.
The deal is this: It is okay to be offended as long as you don’t let it destroy you and others. The Bible teaches us about how to handle offense. It calls on us in Matthew 18:15 to go to the person who has offended us (if we are in the body of Christ–but I would argue it is a universal principle of how we should handle conflict) and try to alert them to their offense–truthfully, people are NOT mind readers so if you don’t tell someone what they have done how can they do better? Secondly, it teaches us to take it a step further if the offender will not see the error of their ways, take mature, respected witnesses in the body with you who know of the offense or who can help mitigate the offense. The goal is to bring the two believers back to a place of reconciliation just as GOD reconciles with us every time we sin or offend him and he forgives us. GOD is grace in action. We should strive to model Him. The passage of scripture only counsels us to walk away after we have exhausted all means of being reconciled with the offender and he/she refuses to be reconciled.
At that point the offense is no longer between the two of you, it is now between that person and GOD. Don’t miss this folks: If you do not forgive those who hurt you, curse you, and use you GOD will not forgive you your offenses. More importantly, saying ‘”I forgive you” and then cutting off, ripping at, slandering, or gossiping about the offender is not true forgiveness. And we all know that just makes common sense. You have to extend to others the same grace you want when you mess up, because trust me you WILL mess up. There is a dangerous notion going around in our culture that it is okay to hurt people, it is okay to curse them, cut them off, judge and condemn them and then walk away. NO, it is not. If you are a Christian, you are called on to act like Christ. Period. You cannot be in church leadership or be a member of the body and treat people badly, give them nasty looks, get people to dislike them because you two fell out, or worse. This is just not right by any biblical standard.
When someone I love offends me I try to follow these simple steps–I may not get them right at first but trust me I will get them right eventually because I get that I too cause offense to others and need their grace, covering and love to make it through this journey called relationship:
1. First I try to respond and not react. I usually fail at this step like most humans depending on the situation but once I cool down, pray and seek some counsel which I always do, I will go to that person in a right and loving way and seek to communicate properly.
2. I try to see the person face to face in a safe setting or with some mediators who can help us to both be heard, if we cannot work it out alone. This is critical. Both sides must be heard and felt validate so they can move forward successfully and heal. The goal is to grow, not to grow apart. If we have love we cover one another not curse one another.
3. Know your boundaries. But don’t be overly sensitive to people. You cannot/I cannot control others. So stop trying. The best we can do is communicate our needs off of emails, texts, IMs. etc. and let people know what we need and what we want from them. We all have different “love languages” learn yours and that other persons and go from there.
4. Always stay in a place of love even when mad. I just went through this recently. A sister friend I adored really hurt, disappointed and went OFF on me. To such a degree that I suspect we may never speak again. I made mistakes sure. I owned my part but she is so stuck in her position, her self righteous condemnation of me, that she cannot see her own bad acts, sinful behavior, and damage to our relationship. She refused to talk, to work it out, or save the friendship which was really quite valuable to us both (or at least I thought so). I saw her just this past week at a conference and I so wanted to go up to her, hug her, tell her I loved her and was there for here despite what happened, but fear kept me from it. I truly forgive her for the hurt she caused me and be clear that hurt runs deep, but that is what love does–it covers–and we move on.
5. Finally, I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. How would I want to be treated? How would I want to see this play out. I stay submerged in wise counsel–people who want to uplift, help people be healed and reconciled–not gossipers, yes men, and followers who allow me to stay in my error and not correct me so I can grow and transform. Too many of us surround ourselves with yes men, who never confront us about us. It is the quickest way I know to wreck yourself and block your blessings.