There’s a highway near my house that merges from two lanes down to one lane. Because we locals drive this road daily, we know that the left lane will soon disappear and that we need to stay put in the right lane. We always know when someone doesn’t drive the road often because they stay in the left lane illegally. The rule-following people who just weren’t paying attention, merge right and give the universal wave for “sorry” as they inch their way in front of a generous local. The highway rebels choose another path: They accelerate rapidly, cross the double yellow line and eventually make their way over into the actual lane. This scenario causes many drivers to become, um, easily offended.
This 100-yard stretch of highway has created quite a few disgruntled drivers. I’ve even found myself frustrated and annoyed by people who aren’t paying attention and inconvenience me by forcing me to apply my brakes prematurely. After an eye roll and a possible “you’re an idiot” comment, I may have wished a citation upon them.
Why do we allow such trivial matters to dictate our days? Why in the world do we get so easily offended by the actions of others? To be easily offended means that we are resentful, annoyed, even insulted because of the actions or words of another. The easily offended are often unhappy, frequently complaining and assuming malicious intent instead of accumulating the facts. They tend to make mountains out of molehills and are considered “high maintenance.”
The reason I can pinpoint this easily offended person is because I used to be her. Yes, past tense. I still experience moments when I get offended by the actions of others, but I have truly grown in this area. You can, too.
If you’re a person who’s easily offended, chances are strong that you identify too much with being right. You might even find your worth in it. Think about my traffic example. Maybe you think: I’d never cut someone off—because I’m an excellent driver. Essentially, we get angry because we assume we’re a better person than the bad driver. We too quickly forget we’re all in the same boat: the imperfect boat. We all fall short of God’s perfection.
We might even assume others are intentionally trying to provoke or hurt us—because they’re clearly not as good and pure as we are, right? We form instant negative opinions about others based on this hurtful assumption. Choosing your opinions over the facts is often when an offense happens. We cannot let our feelings wreak havoc in our lives. They’re meant to indicate, not dictate. Recognize them, but then focus on the facts.
Here are three ways to help you avoid becoming easily offended.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. To “overlook an offense” is the wisdom we receive from Proverbs 19:11. People do not always intend to hurt you. So, try giving them the benefit of the doubt. If you want to assume, just assume they did not mean to hurt you or offend you. Maybe they’re responding to real hurt and stress in their own life. You and I have said a plethora of offensive things not even meaning to do so. It’s guaranteed. For sure, people have shown us grace and not taken up an offense with us many times in the past. Let’s reciprocate that. A person with a mature faith will abstain from making assumptions and instead choose to give the benefit of the doubt.
- Lighten up. Realize it’s not about you. Contrary to our own thoughts, not everyone is thinking of us all the time. When we get offended, we assume that the other person had us in mind. That, my friend, is arrogance. There is a strong chance that you weren’t even in the equation when they said or did that offensive thing. Lighten up by not making yourself the center of the world—and lighten up by letting go of the offense faster than it can weigh you down.
- Talk yourself off the ledge. When you feel an offense rising up, ask yourself: Why does this bother me? Why am I so bent out of shape over this? What is the big deal? Will this even matter in a day or a week? We must get to the core of why we are so upset. The only thing we gain by being offended is chaos on the inside.
Ultimately, you have to make some choices that require a bit of intention if you no longer want to reside in the “easily offended” category. I can prompt you with questions, but you have to discover the answers as to why you allow things to bother and annoy you. It might be wise to ask yourself the following questions.
Am I easily offended because there’s an element of truth to the comment or action?
Am I easily offended because someone said something I just don’t happen to agree with?
Am I easily offended because I’m looking to be offended?
Remember: No one can make you feel offended. You and I choose it. Will people say devastating things that make it difficult to remain unoffended? Yes. People are rude and say and do things that hurt and wound. But can we really stop them? No. We cannot choose their actions, but we can choose how we respond—like letting go or creating boundaries for situations that show themselves to be repeatedly hurtful. Then, we can choose to give people the benefit of the doubt and talk ourselves down from situations when our offenses begin to skyrocket.
We can let go of offenses and feel a bit lighter each time we do. According to Romans 12:18, we are called to do everything we can to live at peace with everyone. Today and every day, let your prayer be: Father, help me to walk in freedom from offenses. May I generously shower people with the grace You’ve showered upon me.