How to Break Out of the Prison of Offense

5 Mins read

While there is a nonstop debate on every major news channel about what is offensive and what isn’t, those discussions generally only focus on offense at a larger scale. It does very little to help individuals understand how to process, and ultimately move past, the pain associated with being offended. When left unattended, offense serves as a sort of prison that leaves you unable to move on. However, you don’t have to be captive to offense any longer!

The term “offended” is certainly a hot button topic in our society today. Obviously, as God’s people, it’s important that we don’t look for opportunities to offend others. Instead, God wants His people to share the truth of His Gospel with others in a relatable way that causes them to seek a relationship with Him. What you’re about to read isn’t about “just getting over it” when dealing with the pain associated with being offended. This isn’t a study on acceptable ways to offend others, and then smile at them before telling them to just get past it.

Instead, we’re going to look at what Scripture says about dealing with the long-term ramifications of offense. For some of us, the pain of offense goes back decades, dipping into our childhood. For others, the pain of an offense is relatively new, but is equally as painful.

If left unattended, offense quickly devolves into bitterness and can leave you feeling a lack of control over your own future. For many offended people, the pain that they’ve endured is so real and so deep, that it skews the way that they interact with others.

Offense is a lot like a prison. However, Christ has offered us the keys that we need to escape the prison of offense and move on into the next phase of our lives. You don’t have to live your life shackled in the prison of offense.

What is Offense?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, offense is defined as “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.” While that may seem relatively straight forward, it’s important to note that offense can take on various forms. Obviously, there are words that are inherently offensive. Those types of words, which are often used to describe others in an unfavorable light, shouldn’t be a part of a Christian’s vocabulary.

However, offense often goes deeper than that. Depending on your own life experiences, your offense may date back to traumatic childhood memories where someone who was supposed to care for you abused and mistreated you. Please, in cases like that, seek professional help. God has blessed men and women in the medical field to help their patients deal with the pain associated with traumatic events.

However, sometimes our offense isn’t quite that deep, even though the pain that it can cause is very real. At that point, it becomes important for us to look for a way to move past the offense. If we fail to move past it, we can let a single offense turn into a festering sore of bitterness that damages multiple relationships and takes a toll on our mental and emotional health.

Ultimately, offense is the result of someone saying or doing something that hurts you. Please understand, your feelings are valid. Even if someone around you tells you that you shouldn’t be offended by something, the fact that you are is a valid feeling that needs to be addressed.

A Roadmap to Reconciliation

Matthew 18:15-17 (TPT)
“If your fellow believer sins against you, you must go to that one privately and attempt to resolve the matter. If he responds, your relationship is restored. But if his heart is closed to you, then go to him again, taking one or two others with you. You’ll be fulfilling what the Scripture teaches when it said, ‘Every word may be verified by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ And if he refuses to listen, then share the issue with the entire church in hopes of restoration. If he still refuses to respond, disregarding the fellowship of his church family, you must disregard him as though he were an outsider, on the same level as an unrepentant sinner.

When Jesus taught on this particular topic, he did so while knowing that people would always find a way to offend other people. However, the first step in dealing with offense is remembering that there’s a chance that the person who offended you didn’t do it intentionally. All of us at some time or another, have been careless with our words. The first phase of moving past offense is understanding that the offending party may have not intended for things to be offensive. It’s also important to note that Jesus was referring to times when the person who has offended you is another believer. The principles outlined in this roadmap to reconciliation are contingent on both parties being followers of Christ.

The first step to moving past offense is going to the person who has offended you. However, it’s important that you go to them in the right way. If you approach the topic with anger and bitterness, the results probably won’t be what you need them to be. Instead, go to the person humbly, while still making sure that your feelings are known. You don’t have to go in with “guns blazing,” but you can firmly let the other person know that he or she hurt your feelings. If both of you are God’s people, this conversation should be one filled with love and understanding. Upon learning that you’re hurt by something the other person said or did, he or she will (ideally) offer an apology that you accept, and the relationship is restored.

However, if the person who offended you isn’t willing to have this conversation, the Bible says that you should get one or two people who are also followers of Christ and try to have the conversation again. The people you take with you aren’t there to “gang up” on the other party. Instead, they are simply meant to serve as witnesses to the conversation who may also be able to offer some prayerful solutions.

If that doesn’t work, the Bible says that you are to no longer pursue reconciliation with that person. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to live in the prison of offense. If the person who offended you refuses to apologize and set things right, the Bible says that they are now no better than an unbeliever. Obviously, this isn’t the ideal path, it’s a real possibility.

What If They Won’t Apologize?

Ephesians 4:31-32 (TPT)
Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love.

Ultimately, the decision to escape the prison of offense is a decision that only you can make. If you’ve done everything the Bible says to do in order to rebuild the relationship between you and the person who offended you, but they aren’t receptive, you’re faced with a decision: hold onto the pain of offense or allow yourself to move on.

According to Paul, God’s people should lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. Take note: this doesn’t mean that you just “get over it” when dealing with offense. However, it means that you make the decision not to dwell on the pain and instead you push through it. Instead of constantly talking about the offense, you acknowledge that it happened and that it hurt, but then you stop it there.

Offense doesn’t have to lead to bitterness, broken relationships, and long-term pain. You don’t have to hold onto the pain of offense forever. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can release the pain and move forward in the freedom of forgiveness.

A Closing Prayer:

God, You are fully aware of the pain that I’ve endured because of the offense. Please Lord, help me to go to the person who offended me and make things right. Prepare their heart and mine for reconciliation. If that doesn’t work, please give me the strength to let go of the hurt and break free from the prison of offense. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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