Last November, soon after one of our two older dogs passed away…we got a puppy! He filled the dog-shaped void and lifted our heavy hearts. Puppy joy is something else! But, then there’s puppy shoe destruction, and fear of puppy getting loose and lost. On one particular evening five months later he quickly ran out the opened front door. As he was freely and happily running down the sidewalk, my four year old granddaughter ran after him, desperately pursuing him. In her loudest, scolding voice she hollered “Bad puppy behavior! Bad puppy behavior!”
Our behavior in this earthly life is a heavy biblical subject, with numerous books, chapters and verses which instruct and guide people to behave better. I’d like to narrow down the “behavior” topic to a little slice about how we as children of God behave when we have been personally offended by someone. Keeping in mind the above quote by Rene’ Descartes, a 17th-century French Philosopher, mathematician and scientist; these are my thoughts:
I’m sure every reader here can think of a time when someone said something, or acted in some way, that was hurtful to you. You may or may not have responded in the moment. But as you thought about it and replayed it over and over it in your mind, you wished you had responded a dozen other ways. Perhaps with sarcasm or some clever come-back. The incident mentally consumed you until finally some other concern moved it out of your head, but maybe not before a little seed of bitterness was planted.
But, that’s just human nature, right? Yes, people hurt us and wrong us, and we respond accordingly. And that’s that.
Over my life I’ve known a few people who seemed to be addicted to being offended, almost thriving on it. Even their countenances were dulled with bitterness. Their general attitudes about other things were affected, as well. I have read somewhere that “being offended is self-imposed mental cruelty.” It’s so true, as it really doesn’t affect the offender at all. It’s self destructive.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel what we feel. It’s OK to feel hurt, and to allow that hurt to be expressed and fully felt. If needed, some truth or personal growth might even be gleaned from the incident. That takes maturity and grace to recognize. But, it’s really not OK (i.e. healthy) to allow that hurt to consume us and take up residence in our hearts. As we strive to love God with our whole hearts and minds, and love our neighbor as ourselves, it becomes necessary to let go of it.
When Jesus was suffering on the cross, really suffering in every way, he offered the merciful prayer “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It wasn’t just his feelings that were hurt, as is usually the case for us when we are offended.
SO, is it possible that we can seek a better and deeper reaction to these situations, and then let them go? I believe it is possible with practice. I would suggest (as I have challenged myself) that we PRACTICE the presence of Jesus in our lives by not allowing ourselves to be easily offended. Try this: After such an incident, 1) pray for that person, 2) pray for yourself, 3) and then don’t dwell on what happened; let it go by choosing to think on other things. Philippians 4:8 gives us ideas on pure things to think about. In I Corinthians 13:5 we are reminded that …”love is not easily provoked or offended…”. The Beatitudes in Matthew, chapter 5, speak of the blessedness of peacemakers and those who choose to be merciful.
It is NOT easy, as it goes against just being human. It’s a struggle to rise above or go deeply into our hearts, seeking to forgive, even when the offender doesn’t ask to be forgiven. But, as the situation comes to mind, release it with: “I give it to you, Jesus.” He tells us to cast our cares upon Him, no matter what they are. Then intentionally move on to other thoughts that are more important. With practice, this reaction might just become your more peaceful and “normal” way of reacting.
I believe we all will find that our love for God and others will flow more easily if not blocked by the impediment of grudges and an unforgiving spirit. Of course, we will never attain perfection in this area (or any other), but we can certainly endeavor to have a more disciplined and godly response to hurt feelings. God will see our efforts and bless us with peace of heart and mind and inner healing.
We come before you with a desire to go deeper in our walk with you by living on a higher, holy level. But, we can’t do it alone. Help us to daily, on purpose, turn our hearts towards you. May your Holy Spirit guide us in our responses to hurtful situations. Remind us that we, as your children, are called to be like you in our words, actions, and our reactions. In Jesus’ name,