Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

5 Things to Do Immediately after You Feel Offended

5 Things to Do Immediately after You Feel Offended

In America today, feelings are being replaced with facts. While this is being demonstrated within the political sphere, we can also bear witness to the phenomenon in Christianity. There are fellow believers advocating for such sins as homosexuality and transgenderism. While we as Christians are not called to degrade people engaging in sin, we are also not called to encourage such behaviors. The issue today is that Christians who stick to biblical teachings, the facts, are labeled as offenders, or worse, bigots. This happens because the individuals engaging in the sin do not want to be criticized.

While these are more extreme topics, one thing has become clear in the recent political and cultural unrest. People struggle to communicate, Christians included. We struggle because the moment we are offended, we want to cease conversation. Instead of finding common ground, we only want to be right. Thus, we often label the offender and move on back to people who agree with us. For Christians this sort of behavior is wrong. One reason is that God has tasked us with edifying one another. We should work to help those around us be more like Christ (Proverbs 27:17). Secondly, God does not give up on us when we offend Him. He sent His only son to die for our offenses, though He did not have to do so.

“But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

If we would not want God to abandon us the moment we do something offensive, how incorrect are we when we treat someone else that way? We are not His only child, they are too. Though sensitivity is on the rise and offensiveness is being taken at the most innocuous words or gestures, we as Christians can take a stand. We can be positive role-models and influence the culture in the proper way to behave as God-fearing people.

What Does it Mean to Be Offended?

One of the dictionary’s current definitions of offend is “to irritate, annoy, or anger; cause resentful displeasure in.” We can find ourselves offended in conversation with anyone: parents, children, friends, strangers. As each person has the potential to sin, everyone is liable to do anything within that definition of the word offend (Romans 3:23). This means that not only is being offended possible when interacting with other people, but the feeling is also inevitable.

The best way to gauge whether or not you or someone else is offended is to examine the words and emotions being used within the conversation. The Bible explains how a good conversation sounds. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

If unpleasant words are being used, or we find our bodies feeling uncomfortable, afraid, or angry, then something has gone wrong. Someone may have said something inappropriate or hurtful. Or maybe the offense has taken place because someone spoke the truth and the truth was not desired. Taking offense can happen for both legitimate and illegitimate reasons. As God-fearing people we should aim to only take offense when appropriate, otherwise, we risk ruining good conversation for the sake of holding onto our emotions.

How Can We Tell the Difference between Legitimate Offense and Something We Have Overreacted To?

As Christians, and as people made in God’s image, we have to understand that our emotions are a part of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26). He gave us emotions and we should use them to fulfill all of the precepts He has laid out for us. However, our emotions can also lead us astray. Too much anger can stir up strife (Proverbs 15:18). Too much pride can lead us to a downfall (Proverbs 16:18).

In the same way, being offended can be a legitimate feeling, but how we react makes a difference. If our emotions lead us to conflict rather than resolution, or if we find ourselves wanting to be right instead of understanding the other person, then we are leaning more on our emotions than into love. Jesus made clear that the best we can do for someone else is to love them as we do ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

Therefore, if we prefer others to be rational, then we ought to do the same. Being offended should never stop us from loving others. If this happens then we are no longer fulfilling the second greatest commandment. Our emotions are a very natural part of us though, and not being overwrought with feelings can be difficult. However, with God’s intervention and our own actions, we can take better control of those emotions that run through us (2 Corinthians 10:5).

5 Things to Do Immediately after You Feel Offended

1. Pause for a Moment
In the moment of someone doing or saying something we find offensive, we would be wise to first pause. The more we can practice listening and pausing within conversations, the less conflict we will find (James 1:19). Too often our emotions may call for an immediate response, but if we don’t fully understand the situation we could respond incorrectly. Once we slow down we can take time to properly reflect on the offense.

2. Pray
The Bible makes clear that God is willing to give us wisdom (James 1:5). This applies to our conversations with others as well. We can approach God and ask that He give us insight into someone's motives and intentions. From there we can draw a better judgment on how to react to an offense.

3. Ask for Help
In addition to praying to God, we can ask someone for an outside perspective when we feel offended. We can also ask the person who offended us to clarify their words or actions. The more we understand, the more logical our response.

4. Reflect on the Offense
There is a difference between reflecting on something and ruminating. When we reflect, we take a proactive approach to better understand a situation. Reflecting involves seeking a greater understanding for both sides. That way we can reach a solution. If we ruminate, we simply dwell on what went wrong and do not take an active approach to fix the problem. Scripture encourages positive thinking, and this is crucial for these moments of conflict (Philippians 4:8).

5. Politely Discuss or Let it Go
After taking on the other 4 steps following an offense, we will always be left with a choice. We should reapproach the problem (if too much time has not passed), or we can let the issue go. Problems that have occurred years ago, or even months ago, should likely be discarded depending on the severity of the offense. Sometimes the offender doesn’t recall what happened, and also may be surprised as to why the topic is being broached now. The sooner we can seek reconciliation with someone, the better for both parties. The Bible does not encourage waiting too long to discuss (Matthew 5:24).

If we do discuss a situation with someone, we would do well to approach them in the same manner we would have them do for us. Remember, God wants us to love one another the way we want to be treated (Matthew 22:39). If we would not respond well to someone approaching us in an accusatory manner, we should extend them the same courtesy.

The more we can do to positively role-model excellent communication for others, the more of it we will see in our parents, children, neighbors, and more. Our duty as Christians is to love, and in loving, there will be times we offend, not because we said anything hurtful or did anything wrong. The world is not God, and therefore will find itself against God at times (Romans 8:7-9). We have to choose daily which we want to follow: God or the world. We know that we cannot have two masters (Matthew 6:24). Once we choose God, we serve best by committing to that decision, whether or not someone else finds that offensive.

Photo credit: Glenn Carstens Peters/Unsplash

aaron brown profile pic bioAaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”