Choose not to be offended

Choose not to be offended

By Corrie Lynne Player


I wonder why so many of us get so upset with each other. We notice the failings and faults in others without considering our own failings and faults. I’m including myself in these musings because I know that I, too, often “choose to be offended.” Most of us don’t consciously hurt other people. We may be oblivious, thoughtless, and too caught up in our own concerns, but we rarely say to ourselves, “I think I’ll see if I can really tick-off Mary today.”

I know of countless instances where no intent to hurt was present: someone reads an old journal and discovers that her best friend thought she was “a jerk” back in high school; a teenager stops coming to church because an old lady remarked at how “skimpy” her dress was; a preacher chastises his congregation for coveting and one of the listeners storms out because “he was talking about her,” or a daughter forgets her mother’s birthday and the mother sulks.

Hurt feelings can lead to much worse consequences. Ruptured relationships include divorces, church inactivity, and years-long estrangements.

I see this “choosing to be offended” in public discourse all the time these days: the neighbor who calls animal control for a loose dog from down the street; the protestor who files a grievance at a water hearing instead of talking to his neighbor; the man who ignores phone calls from his friend who wants to apologize about a misunderstanding; the breaking of contact for years because of a forgotten birthday or loan that is never repaid.

Years ago a woman I was friends with found out, through our annual newsletter, that I’d passed through her town on vacation and failed to call or visit. So, she wrote me that “if I were too busy to even call,” she wanted to be removed from our Christmas card list.

I was stunned.

I wonder why some of us choose to interpret everything negatively. I think we should give the other guy the benefit of the doubt. While we may forget to send the note thanking a friend for making us dinner, we genuinely appreciate the dinner and would be horrified if that friend interpreted our lapse as purposeful.

This whole subject ties in with the idea of forgiveness.

There’s a very good reason the Bible commands us to “forgive one another” and states unequivocally that we are “to forgive all men.” The scriptures don’t give any conditions for that forgiveness, either. There’s a reason—forgiving another for a slight or perceived offense calms a churning stomach and lets us sleep at night.

When we hold onto hurt feelings and grudges, we put our immune systems at risk. Science tells us that people who cannot laugh off the pettiness of others suffer from cancer, heart disease and stroke at a much higher rate than the general population. They also die an average of five years earlier.

What I’m trying to say is: taking offense will make you sick, damage your friendships, and erode your relationships. Forgiving those you love will heal your heart.