What It Means to Get Offended
No matter where you look, it seems like there is always something to be upset or angry about. Relationships feel strained after more than a year of quarantining, every social media platform is full of people unafraid to share any opinion under the sun, and our world shudders under the weight of so many changes. It feels easier than ever to become offended by the words and actions of others, but I want to encourage you to be conscious of what happens in your spirit when you make that choice.
When I say, “get offended,” here’s what I mean: someone does or says something that you disagree with, or object to, and it causes a reaction in your heart. You might feel annoyed, angry, or even in disbelief. You also might feel compelled to react or retaliate against them. This includes real-life interactions, perhaps with a spouse or a coworker, as well as interactions online, especially on social media.
What God Says About Offense
We have opportunities to get offended every day, that’s just part of having relationships and being around other people. God talks a lot about relationships and how we are called to treat one another in His Word. 1 Peter 5:5a-8 says,
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Offense is one of the tools of the devil. He knows the value of unity among God’s children, and he will do anything to prevent and disrupt it. Once we know how to recognize it, we can sidestep his efforts and maintain peace in our hearts and our relationships.
I also want to highlight how God emphasizes the importance of humility when we interact with one another. Getting offended with someone involves judging them, which stems from pride. Even if they are in sin, it is still not our place to place judgment on them. We have to leave the judging to God, because He is the only one who truly sees the situation as a whole.
How We Should Really Respond
Romans 12:18-19 says,
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.
If someone does something to offend us, regardless if it was intentional or not, we should never try to punish or retaliate against them. Just as God has endless grace for us, we should also extend that same grace to others. God will work out everything in the end for our benefit in the end, so even if that person doesn’t get their “just desserts” according to what we believe they deserve, we know that we can trust God to handle it according to His will.
Giving In To Gossip
When we get offended by someone, we might be tempted to talk about the situation to someone else. Now, this is not always problematic, but when it starts to drift into gossiping, it then becomes sin.
Now, you may be thinking, “But I need to vent! It’s not healthy for me to carry around anger like this and not expel it somehow,” and you’d be correct. It does hurt our hearts to carry unforgiveness, but you must also consider the heart of the person to whom you are venting. After you have vented to them, you may feel better, but they are left with all these negative thoughts and emotions that weren’t theirs to begin with. Your vent session might even permanently damage the reputation of the person with whom you were offended, which should never be our goal. Ephesians 4:29 says,
Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
We are responsible for what we say, even when we are dealing with anger. The only person we should be venting to is God. He knows the truth about the situation, and He wants to listen. He cares about what we care about. In fact, telling Him how you feel and letting Him speak into the situation can open your eyes to things you never noticed before. Maybe there’s a reason the person who offended us did or said that thing, but even if there isn’t, God gives us grace to forgive them and let it go. Ephesians 4 continues, saying:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
God is calling us to remove unforgiveness, bitterness, and the desire to gossip from our hearts. We should maintain a lifestyle of letting offensive things slide off of us. We don’t gain anything positive by becoming offended, it just ruins our day.
Say you’re scrolling on Facebook one day and you get a notification. You click it and you see your cousin has commented on a picture you posted of your spouse giving your newborn a bath the previous evening. Underneath what you thought would be a cute moment to share with your friends and family they have written, “I can’t believe you’re using so much water in that bath. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? I feel bad for that poor baby, having you guys for parents.”
You’re flabbergasted they would say something so hurtful, especially on a public platform like this. As you process their words, you become angry and prepare to type a response objecting to their words and defending your parenting. How dare they say something like that! It’s obvious that you would never do anything to endanger your child.
Is It Worth It?
When you reach that moment, I encourage you to stop and take a breath. You could get into an argument with them in the comments, insulting their intelligence and pointing out that they don’t have kids, so how would they know, but what would that get you in the end? A sense of false righteousness and pride over an argument you “won” on the internet?
Instead, just let it go. Delete or hide the comment if you can. If they keep commenting, try responding once politely and then don’t feed into it anymore. It won’t be worth it to engage, especially if they are determined to fight about it with you. You can get on with your day and you won’t have to waste any time ranting about their comment to your spouse.
Remember Ephesians 5:1-2:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Can you see Jesus getting into a comment war on the internet? Certainly not. Just as He always walked in love and forgiveness, even towards the very people who hung Him on the cross, so must we live the same way. Our lives should be a testimony of God’s grace and peace.
Was Jesus Ever Offended?
The only example of Jesus displaying true anger and agitation is this section of scripture in John 2:13-17:
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And within the temple grounds He found those who were selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away from here; stop making My Father’s house a place of business!’ His disciples remembered that it was written: ‘Zeal for Your house will consume me.’
I’m sure we all feel like chasing people with a whip at times, but Jesus did not do this out of offense at the money changers’ actions. He did this out of righteous anger at the disrespect towards His Father. By turning the temple into a marketplace, they had disregarded the holy purpose of the house of God.
This passage also shows us that getting angry is not inherently sinful. God gave us emotions and feeling angry should not make us feel guilty. It’s when we allow that anger to control us and drive us to sin that we can get into trouble.
Don’t Make the Choice to Get Offended
Every day there are opportunities to get offended about things. But the good thing is, we don’t have to make the choice. When someone says or does something that you find offensive, don’t go with your fleshly response – instead, remember who God created you to be!