10 SMART WAYS TO RESPOND WHEN YOU’RE OFFENDED
By Cindi McMenamin
It happens to all of us. A personal accusation, a misunderstanding, careless words, or an action on the part of another that rubs you the wrong way and before you know it, you’re offended. How you choose to handle that offense makes all the difference – or all the drama – in the world.
As I was writing my book, Drama Free, I realized a common reason for drama – especially among followers of Christ – is the spirit of offense and how we deal with it. The spirit of offense is what causes division between and among people. It’s what destroys friendships, breaks up marriages, and splits churches.
The more I examine Scripture, the more I find that a Spirit-controlled person is not one to give in to the spirit of offense. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (NIV).
Having a strategy for dealing with offensive behavior can not only keep us from unnecessary drama, but it can shield our hearts from being taken captive by the spirit of offense and bitterness.
Here is a strategy of 10 smart ways to respond when you’re offended.
1. Respond maturely, don’t react emotionally.
Are you one who lets everything steamroll you? Do you allow others’ opinions to get to you? Do you snap back or pout or plot a way to get even? You and I can’t control what others say or think about us, but we can control how we respond. If you know that God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters you will be able to respond appropriately and even biblically, rather than react emotionally. Remember, the offense isn’t so much about how you feel, but more about how you respond.
2. Realize there is always more to the story.
Much of our offense comes from having too little information. There is always another side to the story. There is always a context within which the story – or the offensive statement or action – occurred. And there is always a back story (what a person may have been dealing with that caused her to say or do what she did to offend you). Ask God for the discernment to know if you really need to hear the context or the other side of the story, or if you need to just blow it off and move on.
3. Retain a sense of humor.
Are you taking yourself – and what others say about you – too seriously? When we retain a sense of humor, it keeps us from taking offenses to heart. It also keeps us humble if we can laugh at ourselves and others or be okay with being the brunt of the joke. Humor can also help ease a tense situation. Learn to laugh about it or laugh it off. You might even find that what offended you in the first place was intended to be a joke as well.
4. Refrain from acting impulsively.
Being impulsive in our words and actions often leads to drama. James 1:19 tells us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
As we take time to think through our responses, we can keep from reacting emotionally and impulsively, which many times escalates drama.
Oswald Chambers said: “Impulsiveness is a trait of the natural life, and our Lord always ignores it because it hinders the development of the life of a disciple. Watch how the Spirit of God gives a sense of restraint to impulsiveness, suddenly bringing us a feeling of self-conscious foolishness, which makes us instantly want to vindicate ourselves. Impulsiveness is all right in a child, but is disastrous in a man or woman – an impulsive adult is always a spoiled person. Impulsiveness needs to be trained into intuition through discipline.”
5. Resist the urge to defend yourself.
This step has been the most helpful to me through the years. I can lose sleep at night trying to defend my image, or waste energy on explanations, defenses, or attempted retaliation. But none of that is necessary when I realize one golden truth: God’s got my back.
In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes:
“A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding.” But, Foster says, when we choose to be silent – putting the stopper on all self-justification – we are showing God and others that we believe He can care for us, reputation and all.
6. Rely on God to protect your name.
There is such freedom in being able to let an offense or accusation fall by the wayside with the mindset that “my name is Christ’s. And, therefore an accusation against me is an accusation against Him. And He can defend His name.”
Trust God in the midst of the drama and let the offenses of others lead you to a greater dependence on the Lord. As you do that, you’ll experience the best kind of drama – the dramatic way in which you will grow in your relationship with – and dependence on – God!
7. Remain hidden.
The Bible tells us:
“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 1:1-3, emphasis added).
To be hidden with Christ is to be invisible – so others see Christ and not you or me. Imagine, as you are being offended, as people are talking about you, as someone is going out of their way to make you miserable, if you were to just stay hidden with Christ and unseen until He works it all out. (You certainly couldn’t escalate drama in that condition, could you?)
8. Remember, it’s not all about you.
In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Dying to self and living to Christ means identifying ourselves with Him. Surely, the offense you are dealing with is part of making you more like Christ, who was offended, mocked, and ultimately executed though He did nothing wrong.
9. Reflect on any seed of truth.
Within nearly every offense or accusation is a seed of truth. Even if just a tiny one. What might have provoked the offense? Is there something you could’ve done to prevent it? Get in the practice of taking every offense to God and asking Him to show you what, if anything, is true in the accusation or offense, and what you can learn from it. This offense might actually provide an opportunity to grow in faith and better yourself. Once you have learned the lesson, let the pain of the offense go and move on.
10. Return the offense with a compliment.
There’s nothing quite like loving the unlovable and complimenting the one who has cursed you. That is truly living out Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:27-36 to “love your enemies” and “do good to those who hate [or offend] you” (verse 27). Heaping genuine compliments on the head of one who has offended you shows that you are not impacted by the offense, only Christlike in the face of it.