Erasing the Sting of Offense

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“It was not an enemy insulting me. I could stand that. It was not someone who hated me. I could hide from him.  But it is you, a person like me, we were close and the best of friends.  We had a good friendship and walked together to God’s Temple.  Let death take away my enemies. Let them die while they are still young because evil lives with them” (Psalm 55:12-15).

We see a situation here in King David’s life where he’s been offended greatly.  Perhaps the most devastating part of this situation is that the offender is a close friend of his and a “ministry” partner.  They worshipped God together, experienced His Presence, grew in the ways of the Lord together.  To add salt to the wound, there was the deeper wound of betrayal.

Losing friends is a painful enough experience but it is worse when a close Christian friend turns against us without any warning.  Betrayal is a very difficult feeling to overcome, especially at the hands of a friend.  It is defined as breaking trust or confidence, violating one’s hopes and expectations, exposing to an enemy, being remiss in guarding.  We know all the Gospel clichés especially:  Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling.  But the pain, even the agony lingers.  It can become debilitating, preventing us from moving forward.  Even more grace is needed to repair the damage.  Beyond the exchange of apologies there are still open wounds that need to be soothed and healed.

David chose to leave these things in God’s hands… (Psalm 55:22).

Remember the grace extended to you.  God has not only forgiven me but restored my place in Him…countless times.  Who am I to emotionally imprison someone else?  (Ephesians 4:32).

Take the initiative.  Be proactive.  Don’t get passive aggressive.  Don’t ignore or avoid them.  In fact, you might have to go out of your way to encounter them (Matthew 5:9). 

  • Pray for the person.  Another cliché.  But many times a lie.  We know it, preach it, talk about it, but don’t always do it.  Get on your knees and pray for the offender.  Pray that their needs would be met, that they’d experience God’s Presence, grace, love, joy, and peace (Matthew 5:4).
  • Bless the person.   Don’t speak negatively about the person.  When their name comes up in conversation, don’t fuel the devastation even though they didn’t have the same regard for you.  Speak highly of them mentioning their strengths and positive traits.  You may go so far as to bless them financially or in some other tangible way (Proverbs 25:21-22, Romans 12:14).
  • Encourage the person.  We never know fully what another is experiencing, or why they act out the way they do.  Perhaps we can be part of that healing process.  Send a random text letting them know they’re in your thoughts.  Comment on their Facebook wall with an uplifting verse or quote (1 Peter 4:8-10).

Lower your expectations.  We expose ourselves to disappointment when we telegraph the way someone should act or behave.  In essence, we are placing them in a box based on our own opinions.  When they don’t meet those standards, we are incensed.  Let them off the hook by lessening or eliminating those “requirements” because only God will never let us down.  Don’t expect people to be perfect (Mark 10:18).

Don’t hold them accountable for past offenses.  Other people have hurt us.  We can’t hold current offenders accountable for what others have done to us…or haven’t done (Galatians 6:5).

Repent of your own bitterness.  We’re only hurting ourselves.  No, we can’t heal the wound alone.  But healing begins with obedience.  Forgive and determine to move on with God’s help.  “Do not be bitter or angry or mad…be kind and loving to each other…” (Ephesians 4:31).

Surrender the need to be justified.  There’s a side of us that wants to placated.  The offender must pay!  They must suffer and feel the pain they’ve caused.  In His greatest agony while on the cross, Jesus pleaded for mercy for his accusers.  I tell our students all the time, “We don’t have to be right.”  God will settle the score and make things right in His time.  May mercy be His decision (Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:34-35, Galatians 2:20, 5:24).

Don’t repeat or replay the offense.  It’s easy for our minds to wander and reach back and pick up that resentment again.  Once you catch yourself, change your way of thinking (Philippians 4:8).  And stop talking to others about the offense or they’ll be contaminated also (Proverbs 17:9). 

Accept the fact that sometimes restoration might not be possible the way you want.  “Do your best to live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  There’s a strange implication in this verse.  It doesn’t say “live in peace” but “do your best.”  Despite doing all the right things, not everything is reversible.  We are imperfect beings and restoration isn’t always an option.  But forgiveness, love, and peace are.

Accept the fact that the offender may never fully understand how they’ve hurt you.  Again, everyone has issues and definitely the propensity for selfishness and self-centeredness.  All you can do is control your own actions (Romans 12:17).

A minister friend of mine tells the story of a pastor who’s accused of adultery by a woman in his congregation.  His career and reputation are ruined, as is his relationship with his wife and family.  Months later, the woman recants her story and approaches the pastor to apologize and do what she can to undo what she’d done.  While he is compelled to forgive her, he takes her to the top of a hill and cuts open a feather pillow.  The wind carries thousands and thousands of feathers into the air and scatters them for miles.  He tells her, “Bring back each of those feathers to me.”  “That’s impossible,” she says.  And he responds, “It’s just as impossible for you to bring back everything I’ve lost because of what you did.”

All we can do is our part…and leave the rest to God (Proverbs 4:23).

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