Taking Offense

We all think that giving offense is a bad thing, right? Well, not always. It depends. You may give offense unknowingly just by walking into a room, and that is not (usually, anyway) culpable. But we seldom realize that taking offense can be a sin we really do need to confess. We usually assume that if we are offended, that is the moral high ground, and whatever caused it must be a sin. But that is not true.

Jesus offended the Jews like crazy, and of course He was not guilty of any sin. They were the guilty ones, guilty for taking offense at the Messiah, for having their pride wounded, for being angry that their toes were stepped on. They stumbled over the stone which was given for their deliverance.

In our culture today, when someone is offended, everyone stops with shocked silence. We think that taking offense means that someone actually, objectively wronged us and is therefore guilty of some sin or crime. But that is not always the case. For example, if my “Merry Christmas!” offends my neighbor, then that is his problem, not mine. If I must live to please all my neighbors, then I will have an uphill battle, that is for sure.

Of course sometimes we are offended by real sinfulness in another person, and we should be. But more often than not, we are offended by imaginary sins or by personality quirks. For example, your roommate has an annoying habit, and it gets on your nerves. You should not be offended. The new bride did not send you a thank-you note. You should not be offended. Your friend did not invite you to her Christmas party. You should not be offended. Your husband didn’t read your mind and know that you wanted to talk. You should not be offended. Your boss complimented your co-worker when you did all the real work. You should not be offended. These things may not be sins at all. You may be attributing motives to each of the offendees, and you may be wrong.

Now this is tricky. Our flesh is very good at taking offense. We are offended quite easily and take pleasure in it. A mother can be offended when her four-year-old spills milk on the freshly mopped floor. A wife can be offended when her husband fails to compliment her  on dinner or on the new haircut. A daughter can be offended when Mom suggests that her skirt is too tight. Neighbors can be offended by the political signs in your yard or the noise from your family barbecues. We can become offended by sales clerks, traffic lights, grocery prices, or coffee that isn’t hot enough.

So I am suggesting that taking offense is wrong, bad, and sinful. Instead of assuming that the offending party is the one in the wrong, consider assuming that you are wrong to take offense. Then work from there. It’s amazing how it will simplify your life.

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11 thoughts on “Taking Offense

  1. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Thanks for the insight. I’m going to try to remember this tomorrow, when children unknowingly leave a small pile of crumbs underneath the kitchen table. :)

  2. Thank you for the GREAT reminder! If only the church would practice this… we would have less issues with baby showers, weddings, small groups, etc.! Thank you for your faithfulness to share the truth! you have been SUCH an encouragement and a challenge to me! Thanks!

  3. This is very helpful. I recently read a book called How to Get your Husband to Talk to You. I happened upon it in a resale store. Now, my husband is already sweet about talking to me :0), but this book is really about how to be a good wife. Many times the authors talk about developing thicker skin and not being offended by every little thing that your husband says or does. This is a tough lesson to learn sometimes, but a really important one. Husbands and wives are indeed different and just because we wives take offense, does not mean that our husbands were trying to offend or that they were wrong at all. What a blessing it will be to our husbands if we try to interpret everything they say in the best light possible and give them the benefit of the doubt. Afterall, they must be pretty great guys…we chose to marry them :0)

  4. a helpful image my husband offers: a heart like the ocean. a little ripple hardly affect deep waters. if one has a heart with the width and depth of a puddle, however, it would not take much to disturb one’s peace.

    thanks for the reminder, Nancy.

  5. I sometimes put my feelings about myself on my husband and assume that if I feel like a failure today, then he thinks I’m a failure today. that is not fair to him and can make for a very ugly evening. I know from experience. I am trying to learn how to accept others’ grace for me and give grace to myself. It’s hard some days…

  6. My husband would love this one…He says that most people are always in “victim mode” and look for reasons to be offended or have something to complain about:).
    My husband is right (of course) You can sit in on conversations and decide you need to be offended by something even if you weren’t at first. Just by listening we can create offenses in our minds to be victims about so we can be miserable too.

  7. Funny to me that I thought I understood that it’s sin when I take offense, but you have shown me where I am still failing at this.

    Sometimes we all like to think that in every disagreement or offense, one party is right and one is wrong.
    But oftener, both parties are in sin.

    Thank you for this.

    I just read your husband’s exhortation about judging others who are tempted in ways I am not. It goes hand in hand with this one.

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