The quickest method to raise a spirited conversation is to discuss religion and politics in a public forum. I am never surprised or alarmed that a few feathers get ruffled when this happens. I did not expect to post my last blog, The Problem with Lent, and emerge unscathed from a bit of static. I understand that writing about something that touches a sensitive bone with some is likely to receive a comment or two. What it really brings to mind is something I learned long ago: We choose to be offended.
Many years ago, I participated in a Forgiveness Seminar that taught several principles of forgiveness. One of which included the choice to be offended. I agreed with and understood all of the principles except . I could not get past this one. I just didn't get how this was a choice. You mean if someone gossips about me or someone accuses me of wrongdoing I choose whether or not that offends me? You mean there is no entitlement to be offended? Who says??? The very patient person working with me shared this:
If the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us, it is very difficult for us to get offended. She went on to share that if the fruits of the Holy Spirit are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22) then how can an offense resonate so that it is disruptive within us?
In recent months I have needed to truly embrace the thought that I and only I have the choice in whether someone's actions or words will offend me. It is one thing to make such a statement and quite another to truly know it. If I have the Holy Spirit living in me then I know in the face of another's hurtful words and actions that I should be motivated first by love, find joy in all circumstances, have peace that surpasses all understanding, forbearance in tough circumstances, kindness despite how I have been treated, faithfulness in the Lord, gentleness with my words and self-control with my tongue.
It is remarkably freeing to know that I hold the choice in how I handle hurtful circumstances. There are a myriad of reasons people say what they say or do what they do. I have found in recent months
the more I consider what those reasons may be or consider the source before I react, the easier it is to process things that would normally sting or do deeper damage.
I'll be honest, living this principle does not mean I get the free pass to avoid having hurt feelings at all times. After all, I wouldn't be human if some things didn't bother me. But it is amazing how much less bothers me when I ditch the sense of entitlement to be wounded. When I choose to look at the situation from a different perspective it gives me the time I need to avoid a knee-jerk reaction and ask God to help me in the moment.
The more I put this principle into practice, I think about the time Jesus spent on earth. I consider how many times he had to endure accusations, insults and coarse words. I wonder how much of his ministry could have been wasted had he frequently retreated to his corner in order to lick his wounds. How often he would have sparked unnecessary confrontations because of a fiery temper and sharp tongue when his accusers took aim at him?
The infractions against Jesus were monumental. The manner in which he was treated reprehensible. He was ridiculed, chased and persecuted and he wasted none of his precious time here on earth making sure all the wrongs against him were defended and continued his ministry work in spite of how badly he must have hurt. Instead he asked his Father to forgive those who did not understand what they were doing. And if I have the choice between spending time focused on wrongs (or perceived wrongs) that have been committed against me and asking God to help me and those who hurt me -I don't want to waste my precious time here on earth either.
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. -Psalm 119:165