On occasion even the most cherished people in our circle of influence get downright offensive. Like it or not the rich tapestry of family, friends, work colleagues, neighbors, and even church members can become insulting, arrogant, or troublesome. Our response to them in moments of anger, tension, or human emotion can either sever the relationship, create added distance, or be an occasion where trust is enhanced. Few of us are sheltered from awkward moments, rash words, or the conflict a diverse world like ours bodes. The prevailing climate of the times puts us humans at odds over just about anything. Over-reacting to the barbs thrown at us by others is usually the wrong response. In most instances it can turn us into the offensive person. Some wise person said, ""Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die". Indeed.
Scripture gives truth and instruction about those times when we're suddenly thrust into a flammable situation. Several passages have provided solid guidance when this hot tempered sinner has been under attack. This counsel includes---
1. Keeping my emotions under guard.
Well, yes, we are emotional creatures. Being an extrovert makes my emotions hard to disguise. They can become incendiary when our self-protective security systems are on high alert. Anger, defensiveness, revenge, aggressiveness, retribution, retaliation, and many other instant emotional responses will only heighten the tension. Scripture gives guidance in keeping our emotions in check---
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Proverbs 15:18, ESV
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
Proverbs 25: 28, ESV
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Proverbs 29:11, ESV
Controlling our emotions may be among the most difficult life disciplines. Doing so, however, may be our most significant action when offended.
2. Weighing the offense.
So, there are differences of opinion, disagreements, words spoken in the heat of a moment, and misunderstandings. Just the same, there are insults, gossip, rumors, libel, slander, and outright attacks. Life context may influence the one who takes aim at us, and just as surely our reception of their words or actions. The Apostle Paul wrote about our thought life and his words may give us pause before we respond improperly to an offense---
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4: 8, ESV
This simply means that we should think through our response to that which we have perceived to be offensive. In the greater scheme of life it may not be that significant. This thought process, on the spot, may keep us from over-acting to an immediate urgency while keeping our minds and hearts on what is really important.
3. Learning the grace of overlooking the offense.
Once again, Scripture defines our response systems when we've been offended. By that I mean how believers are expected to react when we've been targeted by words or actions that have personally wronged us. We must note that the biblical counsel in this regard is not the controlling worldview of an egocentric culture. Getting even, offering pay-back, and the prevailing secular view of fairness usually translates to angry words of defensiveness. The biblical view is quite different. Our good buddy Simon Peter wrote---
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you
were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3: 9, ESV
Wise King Solomon has written even more poignant truth---
The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.
Proverbs 12: 16, ESV
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11, ESV
Overlooking or ignoring the annoyances of life, including difficult people, is a hard one. We are wired to protect ourselves and the things we value. Still, the relationships we have even with perplexing people is a key element in our witness to this world. We should value them as well.
4. Wearing the whole armor of God.
The Apostle Paul wrote about not having arrived at the desired state of spiritual maturity (see Philippians 3: 12-14, ESV). This would be my confession about wearing the whole armor of God. Years ago I hard Dr. Avery Willis model how he clothed himself with God's armor every day. I'm not there yet though I desire to be. To the Ephesians Paul expressed our need for God's protective armor. You can read about it in Ephesians 3: 10-18. He advised that this armor enabled us "...to stand against the schemes of the devil" (v. 11). Yes, my Christian worldview acknowledges the existence of the genuine adversary, the devil. Simon Peter was inspired to remind his readers to "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 8:8, ESV). Wearing the whole armor of God gives us the courage and spiritual strength to withstand his temptations. And, when he comes after me it is usually through my emotions, especially anger.
Life is a blessing. Every moment of it. It is lived in a broken world among millions of broken people. But, God has given us what we need to live the life he desires. Even when it means responding to offenders.