Taking offense


While driving down the highway in the right lane with several cars around me, all traveling the posted speed limit, a pick-up truck is seen to my right trying to merge from an on-ramp. There is nothing that I can do safely to help him. Eventually he speeds up and (unsafely) cuts in front of me with a loud horn honk and hand gesture out the window. Obviously the other driver is upset about the situation, but how do I respond?

Do I take offense? Do I have the right to get angry or upset about what the other driver has done? With respect to the rules of the road, I was in the right. Is my ego wounded? Do I speed up and honk and gesture at this other driver? Or, do I look at the situation from his perspective and try to be forgiving? Perhaps this driver had a bad day, lost his job, or just had a fight with his wife. I don’t know, but I choose to offer grace.

It is quite easy to take offense at other people’s behavior. Why do we do it?

Counselor Cory Schortzman at Transformed Hearts Counseling Center works with men and women struggling with addiction. Cory has addressed the issue of being addicted to “taking offense” and that it is a pernicious trait that ruins close relationships. He describes this condition:

Over the years, I have learned that there is even a deeper addiction that not only the addict struggles with but also the partner; addicted to being offended. In fact, I believe it to be the core of any, if not all, addictions, especially for those struggling with (intimacy and emotional) anorexia. As we have learned, the anorexic likes to accuse, blame, and criticize; because as long as they believe others have hurt them, then they do not have to change, but everyone else does.

When one believes and feels (real or imagined) that they have been offended, there is a great payoff, as they believe they do not need to change. They are right and others are wrong.

Most of us are self-centered. We naturally want to protect and defend ourselves. We have been looking out for “Number 1” for our whole lives. Becoming offended is a natural defense mechanism. It deflects our own faults and short-comings by pointing the finger and blaming the other guy. However, this is not what Christ taught us through his words and example.

I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.               Matthew 5:39-40

Jesus sets a very high standard for his followers. If someone offends us (either intentionally or inadvertently) even to the point of injuring us, we are to not seek revenge, but rather we are to assist them and bless them in any way that is within our power. Getting angry or even is not part of the right living that Jesus calls each believer to.

This is a difficult teaching, but is an essential part of the Gospel. God forgave us first, we too are called to forgive our brothers and those who seek our harm.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.                 Colossians 3:12-14

In today’s chaotic world of protests, litigation, and ever rampant evildoing, it is time for Christians to take a stand. I have previously written about convictions, and we should stand by our convictions. However, we need always to show grace, love, and compassion to those who may offend us or even those who seek our harm. It is the example that Christ gave us.

What do you think? Are you easily offended? Is there a way for you to offer more grace in your daily intersections with the people of this world?

About John Forrest