Ok ladies, I’m about to tell you something that may shock you. It may absolutely blow your mind. I hope you are sitting down. Ready?
You are surrounded by imperfect people and at times, those imperfect people just might do something or say something that hurts your feelings.
GASP! Shocking! How dare someone offend you! Isn’t there some law that says I have a right to never be offended? The nerve of some people!!!
Alright, now that the shock is wearing off, let’s talk about how God wants us to behave when we become offended.
First of all, keep your words and temper in check! Striking out with that perfect zinger may feel great in the moment, but hasty words spoken in anger can cause more harm than good. How many times have you tossed and turned at night regretting words that came out of your mouth during the day? (Of course sometimes in biting your tongue, you may spend some prideful time ruminating over that perfect comback that just now came to you! But again, you can sleep peacefully knowing that you don’t have spoken words to regret.) God has some great advice for avoiding lost sleep in James 1:19b-20, “…But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
[Tweet “Striking out with that perfect zinger may feel great in the moment, but hasty words spoken in anger can cause more harm than good. “]
It’s important to always keep the “end game” in mind. We’re all going to stand before God one day and it’s up to us whether or not we achieve the righteousness of God. If the anger of man keeps us from His righteousness, then we must do all we can to avoid it. While there is a time and place for righteous anger, the best way to be discerning is to train ourselves to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Sounds easy right? No, it doesn’t. That’s because biting your tongue requires so much more strength than shooting off at the mouth. We live in a world that teaches strength lies in confrontation, speaking your mind, and “telling it like it is”. How often have you heard, “If I don’t like something, I’m going to tell you about it, that’s just how I am”? I would like to humbly submit that the world is not the standard we should live by, rather we should follow the example of Jesus who said, “…whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:39b) May I also point out that God is never ok with a prideful, unrepentant heart that hardens around the phrase, “that’s just the way I am”. God calls us to be better, to improve, and to grow.
Did you know you have control over your feelings? You can choose not to be offended. When you overhear another woman say something rude, you can choose not to react. When you see a sister post something on facebook that makes light of something you take very seriously, you can choose to keep your anger to yourself. I know this is a struggle for many, it’s a struggle for me as well. As we struggle, it’s important to keep in mind that we can find peace in God’s word!
[Tweet “Did you know you have control over your feelings? You can choose not to be offended.”]
We all know about First Corinthians 13, a.k.a. “The Love Chapter”. I’d like to hone in on one verse in particular, the first part of verse 7 which reads, “(love) bears all things”. What does it mean to “bear” all things? The word “bear” literally means to cover! I like the way brother Hugo McCord translated this verse, “Love covers with silence the faults of others.” So if we are to love one another, then true love will take offensive behavior and just cover that offense with a blanket of silence. In other words, if we are offended, it’s ok to just let it go and move on! And what a blessing it is to see others through forgiving eyes. If sister so and so says something that hurts my feelings, isn’t it better to look at her with eyes of Christian love and think, “I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by that!” and then move on? Oh to be so liberated of offences!
Never forget, one being who is absolutely thrilled when we are easily offended is Satan. Hurt feelings destroy Christian unity. We become weaker by the devil’s darts of disharmony and discouragement. The devil wants us to collect offenses, storing them away to be pulled out and frequently examined like precious gems. Satan loves it when we dwell on our hurt feelings. Self-pity parties are his playground. Sadly, this festering of feelings can lead to disinterest in fellowship with your Christian family, particularly in worship. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t want to sit in the same pew as all those hypocrites!” Where do you think that sentiment comes from? It’s from the father of lies himself. Don’t let hurt feelings drive a wedge between you and your brothers and sisters in Christ. We need each other. Together we are stronger, separated we are weakened.
[Tweet “Satan loves it when we dwell on our hurt feelings. Self-pity parties are his playground.”]
A-ha, but what about Matthew 5:23-24? “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the alter, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Please note that this does not say, “If your brother has offended you…go be reconciled”, rather it says, “If your brother has something against you…go be reconciled”. In other words, this doesn’t mean we should say, “Hey, sister so and so offended me, I have to go confront her about it!” It’s not my “Christian duty” to speak up every time my feelings are hurt. We all know people who get their feelings hurt at the tiniest little things, people who expect the world to tiptoe around their fragile feelings at all times. Patience must be summoned when dealing with a thin skinned sister.
If you are someone struggling with thin skin, if you are one who is easily hurt by others, I’d like to encourage you to strive to grow stronger skin. Perhaps it is not that everybody is out to hurt your feelings, rather perhaps you are simply assuming the worst of others. It’s not fair to your sisters if you always assume they are trying to hurt you. The golden rule applies here, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31) Do you want others to weigh every word you utter, seeking any excuse to become offended? No? Then offer them the same courtesy and think the best of them. Perhaps if you are easily offended, the problem is one that requires some personal spiritual housekeeping.
With all this said, it is simply not possible to go through life and never have your feelings hurt. There will be times when your feelings aren’t just hurt, they are crushed! Mangled! Oh the dispair of a well-aimed dart of cruelty, whether thrown intentionally or unintentionally. How should we deal with injured feelings?
It’s very important at this point to avoid that very tempting trap of gossip! Going to a third party sister to vent about someone, building up sympathy for yourself and causing her to grow feelings of resentment against the offender is never pleasing to God. Cliques and factions in a congregation often begin with hurt feelings begging others to take sides against another. Yes, sometimes we need to seek advice in dealing with a situation, but there is a fine line between seeking counsel and gossip. Be aware and do not cross that line!
The best balm for hurt feelings is to go to our Father in prayer! We can pour out our hurts to the One who is always there. “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you…” (Psalm 55:22a) As women, we all know that sometimes you just need to talk things out with someone, so why not talk it out with the Someone who loves you the most? He will hear, He will understand, and there is great comfort in spilling out our sorrows to the great Comforter. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Ah, the peace of God! There is no other greater comfort than pouring out your heart to Him. But while in prayer, seek for resolution as well as comfort. Don’t just tell God about your hurt, pray for the one who hurt you. In doing so, you just might discover empathy for her. Perhaps she was having a bad day. Maybe she has valid reasons for how she feels, even though they conflict with your own very valid reasons. It’s so easy to demonize that which offends us. Strive to keep the offense separate from the total character of the offender.
[Tweet “Don’t just tell God about your hurt, pray for the one who hurt you.”]
One thing to keep in mind is, there have almost certainly been times when you mistakenly, accidentally offended someone. Are you a bad, unloving, uncaring person for doing so? No! You are simply human. It logically follows that the person who offended you may have had no ill will toward you at all, your feelings simply got caught in the crossfire of conversation. So why not just think the best of that person, cover their fault with silence, pray about it, and then move on in Christian harmony? This is what Peter meant when he encouraged, “…all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)
Now, this is not to say that there aren’t people who enjoy saying things to intentionally hurt you. There may be times in your life when you come across a true enemy who, for whatever reason, will not be gotten along with. This is another discussion for another time, (March 2016 article perhaps?) but for now I will say, prayer can go a long way in helping you deal with an enemy.
I guess what all this boils down to, once again, is to love. “Love one another, for love is of God. He who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8) If we are truly loving one another, applying patience, kindness, humility and silence when we are offended, then even through moments of hurt feelings we can continue to press on together, in harmony, toward our heavenly goal. Let’s strive to walk the Christian path arm in arm, joyfully united, for together we are stronger!
Note: The New American Standard Bible translation was used for scriptures, with the exception of Hugo McCord’s 5th edition translation of 1 Corinthians 13:7a.