How not to be easily offended
A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. (Proverbs 12:16)
I don’t know about you, but it appears people are becoming more easily offended, reacting dramatically and instantly even to what appear to be small matters. But today I look in the mirror. I too have been a fool, showing my annoyance at once over nothing important. In other words, I too have allowed indiscriminate, knee-jerk reactions to run my life.
When I have done so, I have been a fool.
The Bible assumes emotional maturity as part of being mature in the faith. It is clear in the verse above that Christians are expected to have the capability of overlooking an insult. It is also assumed that a Christian is capable of giving a gentle answer in situations others would respond to harshly.
Proverbs 15:1 says: A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.
What can we do to gain emotional maturity as we grow in our faith? How can we get out of bed every morning in a way that insulates us from instant annoyance and allows us to provide gentle answers in hostile conversations? Here are some ideas.
1. Connect to the only power source that can display emotional maturity.
Before our feet the floor, we can pray. While our head is still on the pillow and covers are still pulled to our chin, we can start our day with, Lord, I don’t have the power to live this day well, but you do. Holy Spirit, fill me up. You be the one who responds to the world around me today as I walk through my plans, my mistakes and handle unforeseen circumstances and conversations. Infuse everything I do today with the power of God. I look forward to watching you in action.
2. Hold your plans lightly.
Okay, before you panic, I have to-do lists all over my phone and consult them throughout the day. Have a plan because the Christian life can only be lived with intention. Passivity gets us nowhere, but don’t let the plan run your life. Jesus runs our lives.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Each day is God’s day to display Himself through us as He pleases.
Hold plans so lightly that God can alter them with a whisper. He can interrupt the list any time, change items, change the order of the items or change the plan completely. He is God. He has the power and knows the perfect role we play in His story. Trust His perfect sovereignty.
3. Don’t expect the world to cooperate with you.
I can’t be the only one who has gotten out of bed on some mornings with a fresh-start mindset: I am going to tackle this day and it’s going to be great! That thrill of victory is often the agony of defeat by the time breakfast is over. I get offended easily but that son who was supposed to cooperate with me to get dressed on time for us to leave for the bus stop, the husband who is supposed to be cheerful and kind even before he has had his coffee, and the co-worker who sends urgent texts before 7 a.m.
Research shows anger occurs when our goals are blocked. The Bible agrees.
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1-2)
So let’s change our goal.
Instead of starting the day to get our way on anything, adopt this mindset instead: Today is not about getting my way but about responding well to a world that will not be cooperating with me.
This is not a cop out. This is not a psychological game used to protect ourselves from hurt. No, this is real. It is impossible for the world to cooperate with us. It never will.
Think about what is true about every person you are interacting with today. Their life is vastly limited. Like you, each person on the globe brings to our interactions only what we have experienced and learned in life so far. Two vastly different lifetimes and strands of DNA are interacting in every conversation. We cannot expect any person to view life through our eyes or to miss stepping on any of the sensitive spots in our heart caused by something completely incomprehensible by them. Why then, do we get so easily offended when someone’s words lands on a sensitivity?
4. You will not miss out on anything by giving God your day.
If the world needs to cooperate with you today in order for His perfect story to occur for your life, then God will allow the world to cooperate. He has the hearts of kings in His hands (Proverbs 21:1); commands lightning bolts (Job 38:35); calls the stars by name (Psalm 147:4); knows the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30); and owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:9-12). Relax in that truth!
Let’s stop being easily offended.
Let’s not do this life on our own strength, hold onto plans with a tight fist and have the unrealistic expectation that the world is supposed to cooperate with us. We will not miss out on anything. Instead, we will gain everything because God will have the room He needs to shine.
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