no offense taken

More suffering comes into the world by people taking offense than by people intending to give offense. The offended ones feel the need to offend back those who they think have offended them, creating defensiveness on the part of the presumed offenders, which often becomes a new offensive—ad infinitum. There seems to be no way out of this self-defeating and violent Ping-Pong game—except growing up spiritually. —Richard Rohr

If the Richard Rohr quote is true, and most people don’t mean to offend, then I have to ask myself the questions: Why am I offended? Why do I get hurt or angry or upset with people?

It seems for me that I take offense by the things that I’m already a little defensive about, the things that I question about myself, or even the things I know might be true but that I’m still desperately trying to keep hidden.

If I’m insecure about something, and then someone steps in and treats me in a way that reiterates the same things I’m already hearing in my head, then I get angry or hurt or offended, whether the person was meaning to be offensive or not. It seems I’ve already been questioning those things about myself, and the offender has intentionally or unintentionally brought them to the light. And it’s easier to lash out at them in hurt or anger than have to deal with my own stuff.

Why else would I be offended if someone overlooks me or even tells me what to do or cuts me off in traffic? Because I’m insecure about being overlooked or about being told what to do or really think that I shouldn’t be treated a certain way. Otherwise I wouldn’t care. Not really.

The other night at the soccer field, some teenage girls were practicing soccer, and one of the girls told me and the friend I was talking with to basically move out-of-the-way. Another one joked around by saying that she was really bad and that if we didn’t move, they might hit us with the ball. I have to admit, I was a little taken back that they were so rude. I used to be a teacher, and teenagers shouldn’t talk to adults like that.

These girls acted rude and entitled, for sure. But I realize that was their deal, not mine. If I felt threatened as an adult, an “authority figure,” then I might take offense at their rudeness. But my taking offense does not help those girls or me in any way. So I let it go and realized that their coaches and teachers and parents have to deal with their sense of entitlement, relieved that I’m not the authority figure in their lives. No offense taken.

But a few years ago, I got in this huge fight with a friend of mine. She had taken something I wrote and twisted it to mean something else, and I looked bad. I was resentful that someone was trying to control me. The whole thing was really stupid. I childishly addressed it over facebook, of all things. She actually wanted to have a conversation and talk about the whole thing, and she apologized for her part in it. But I stubbornly refused to be an adult and talk about it in an adult way. Rather than choosing forgiveness and peace, I chose to be offended.

Now, I look back and embarrassingly kind of laugh, because it stings that I acted that crazy and that immature. I later got a chance to apologize for my part in all of that as well as to my friends who had to hear every gory detail of my facebook fight. But I realize now because of my insecurity and control issues, I refused to let it go, and it became bigger than it should have been. I wasted much time and energy on something that could have been taken care of quickly and without all the anger and emotional trauma.

I’ve been reading Corrie Ten Boom’s writings, and she’s become a kind of mentor for me. Corrie and her family were arrested and put in concentration camps for hiding Jewish people in Holland during World War II. Her writings have greatly influenced me these last few months, and in her books she talked often about resentments and offenses and forgiveness.

I recently took offense at something and became resentful toward someone. And I was kind of beating myself up about being resentful, thinking that I really should be better than that, more kind, more willing to let go. But I wasn’t. And then I read something that Corrie wrote about her own resentments and offenses. This is when I realized that resentments and offenses don’t go away with age.

As a seventy year old, Corrie took offense at something some of her friends had done to her. She said she forgave her friends and felt in her heart that she had, but ten years later (at eighty), she realized that she was still hanging onto the offense. Corrie had kept papers that her friends had written to prove their offense. I realized I had done the same things with a friend of mine. I said in my heart that I forgave my friend but held onto something to “prove” her hostility toward me.

Through Corrie’s example, God is teaching me to give my offenses and resentments immediately to Him, even if means that I have to confess and repent again and again. Corrie wrote about being able to forgive the person who betrayed her family, as well as being able to forgive her captors in the concentration camps. This was an impossible thing to do, and yet, God did it through her.

It’s funny because some things don’t seem to offend me at all. But I realize they don’t because they’re not a sore spot with me. So how do I get rid of all sore spots, all insecurities, all the doubts I have about myself? How do I get to the point where I realize that most people don’t mean to offend, but that it’s me taking offense because I take myself too seriously, or there’s something deep within me that I’m insecure about?

I realize I can’t get rid of all insecurities, all the things I doubt in myself, but I can give them to a God who loves us all. I realize I’m going to take offense at times. It’s going to happen. And I realize that the things I’ve taken offense by are usually the very things I’m wrestling with. So, as Richard Rohr says,  I can begin to question what it is in me that needs to “grow up spiritually.”

And as I continue to give my doubts, my insecurities and my offenses to God, then He can grow me up into what He wants me to be. Paul (according to Philippians) realized that he didn’t have it all together, but he had the goal of knowing Christ better. And that’s probably a better goal anyway…eyes on Him and His love and forgiveness.

A person’s insight give him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11


1 Response to “no offense taken”

  1. 1 jcooperforpeace
    October 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Hello Kim,

    Thanks for sharing! This thing of confession is on both our minds… I think it should be on our nation’s mind also…

    Great article!

    John Cooper

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