Thursday, August 23, 2012

Don't Touch the Trap-stick!

Perhaps it's because Facebook and social media allow us to voice and share all our inner thoughts, feelings, and opinions at all hours (and hormone levels), but it seems to be getting easier and easier to become offended. Even worse, Christians are using the same channels to justify their offendedness, creating a contagious cycle that circulates through the body of Christ, generating anger, hurt feelings, condemnation, and judgment.

Oh, sure, we're calling it "righteous anger," "standing up for our beliefs," "defending the faith," "taking a stand for the Gospel," and all sorts of other euphemisms, but in reality, all we're really doing is getting offended. Not only is that unhealthy for us as individuals, offense is detrimental to the entire body of Christ. The moment we let our "fur" get rubbed the wrong way by someone's offhand comment, Facebook post, overheard gossip, or your spouse's tone of voice, we're headed for trouble.

The Greek word for "offense" is the word skandalon. It's where we get our English word "scandal."  The literal definition for the word is a trap-stick... the apparatus used in, say, a mousetrap, that when triggered, (usually by the prey disturbing the bait) causes the trap to slam shut on the neck of its victim. In other words, offense isn't something to play around with.

And offense can take many forms... check out these synonyms for "offended":

Angry, exasperated, hurt, insulted, rubbed the wrong way, irritated, annoyed, aggravated, insulted, outraged, provoked, upset, wounded, miffed, resentful, touchy, etc. (My personal favorite, "he/she/it gets on my nerves.")

Do any of those adjectives fit? If so, it's time to take action! Offense can run the gamut of negative emotions. When we recognize those thoughts and feelings welling up, we need to address the issue as quickly as possible, from within. Offense is an internal issue, not an external one. Attacking the offender won't help the situation, neither will avoidance.

Step one: Learn to recognize your personal "bait." Knowing what pushes your buttons can serve as a protective measure against the offense trap. For most of us, our "bait" is rooted in pride, self-righteousness, insecurity, and religiosity. Here's an example... for the last two decades, I've worked hard to provide tasty, nutritious meals for my family. It's a point of personal satisfaction and pride, so when my husband, who likes to drown his spaghetti noodles in butter before taking the noodles out of the pot, asks me EVERY TIME I make spaghetti if I put enough butter on the noodles, my pride gets poked and triggers the following internal dialogue: "Surely I know by now to drench his pasta in artery-clogging butter, don't I? Does he think I'm a terrible wife, or what? And after I cooked dinner, AGAIN, he dares to question my methods?" I'm not sure, considering the vitriolic responses hubby has received over the years, why he keeps asking the question. Maybe it's a test...

Step two: Let go of the stick! For most of us, that's hard. We want to review, rehearse, relate, and report. We want others to commiserate with us. We want to feel justified in our response, so we cling to that stupid stick (the butter question, or whatever your bait might be.) As long as you're holding it, you are in danger. Let it go. Release it from your mind and heart. Granted, especially with family members and long-standing "ruts" of behavior and response, this step can be difficult. Take a minute (or five) to pray and receive God's grace. Even if you KNOW you're right, even if you feel compelled to defend yourself, or God, or your children... let it go. The only power that bait has to harm you is if you swallow it!

Third: FORGIVE. Forgive is an action word, it's not something you can do passively. Don't wait for a "feeling," and definitely don't wait for the offender to apologize. To forgive means to send something away, like the trash. You don't (I hope) chase down the trash truck every week, do you? No, because you got rid of that useless stuff. That's forgiveness. Whatever has you offended is useless to you. Toss it.

We're told in the New Testament that in the last days people will get more and more mean and nasty and disrespectful and rude (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5). More offensive (and you thought it was bad now). We need to practice getting away from the trap-stick of offense, lest we get snared in the enemy's trap!

How do you deal with offenses when they come?



  1. I'[m going over to Timothy, right after this. Wonderful post Niki, though I'm sorry that Patrick will have to give up butter someday on orders from a cardiologist...

    The news is so depressing. I would be a complete ostrich if it wasn't for Facebook...and what worse place to get news than the postings of political people?

    As for button pushing, having a few states between you and your button-pusher is very helpful.

  2. Oh, I need this a lot right now, Niki. Thanks. I think I especially struggle when it seems that the giver of the offense meant to do so. It's easy to forgive errors of ignorance or haste, but when someone sets out to hurt you and succeeds it can be a lot harder to let go. But it's not really about them is it? We let go for our own healing, not theirs.

  3. The other day on FB a sweet Christian lady took the side of an issue, in complete opposition to a sweet Christian man I know. I started a comment on her thread . . . then deleted it. What benefit would it give to speak contrary. Whether it would have changed her view or not really didn't matter because the issue really didn't matter.

    Yet if I had said something I probably would have caused offense to rise up in the lady.

    Wish I were wise enough to always know when to shut my trap.

    In worship last week, we were talking about forgiveness and religious leaders who do harm. Someone said when he is offended by a brother/sister in Christ, he tries to focus on the fact someday he and that person will be in eternity kneeling side by side in worship of Jesus.

    I thought, okay, I'm fine with worshipping Jesus in eternity along with those religious leaders who've done me harm. . . . as long as they were on the other side of the crowd. Ouch.

    I want to be where I completely forgive and completely let go. The truth is some part of me still desires justice. What if God was like that?

    I'm so thankful He isn't. So I go back to daily letting go of the offense. A conscious action. A spoken action. A continual action.

    A necessary action.

  4. Great post, Niki.

    How do I deal with offense? If it's in person, I clam up and seethe until God starts to work in me and then we have a discussion about it. After some more stewing, I leave it at His feet.

    If it's online, I'm like Gina and start to type an email/comment, but again, God works in me and I erase it. I'm very blessed to have Him in my heart because He is my calm in a storm of conflict.

    Because I'm human, however, I have to admit that sometimes I seethe for days while ignoring Him and other times I do let my tongue and fingers get away from me. Then I feel awful. But as I age, those times are far less because honestly, they're not worth my time.

  5. *grin* YES, having a few states between yourself and your button pusher IS helpful! I don't seem to have that luxury, although moving out of the town we planted the church in has certainly helped! Try not being offended by an entire town, give or take a few people! : )

    PS, I'd love to take the butter away, but he's not ready to listen!

  6. Amen to that, Lisa. Harboring the hurt/offense only ends up hurting us, not the offender. Besides, God is much more capable of dealing with the twit than we are! : )

  7. Oh wow, Gina. That's powerful... could I kneel before my Lord right next to the person who offended me? That's tough on the flesh even to think about, but SO true.

    As for justice, those nasty things people do eventually (now or in eternity) will come around and bite them in the butt. My goal is to try and make sure I don't have a string of things creeping up on ME!

    Forgiveness is a process. For me, I find that I can go a long while without even thinking about those wounds, until I run into the person at the grocery store, or see a post on Facebook. When I get to the point I don't have to stop and release them to God AGAIN, I know the wound is healed. The deeper the wound, the longer it takes. *sigh*

  8. I agree, Anita. The longer I live the more often I find myself able to zip my lips or still my fingers on the keyboard. There ARE some benefits to getting older!!!

  9. BTW... I made spaghetti last night. And no one asked me about the butter. : )

  10. Very good post, Niki. Clearly I have a weakness in this area, since I shared earlier about my blood pressure going up after seeing a FB post. I have some buttons, for sure. I'm working on them!


  11. Thanks, Susie! I think we ALL have weaknesses in this area. It's when we aren't willing to acknowledge it that we end up in trouble!

  12. Great post, Niki. I try not to take offense at things, but of course there are times when I do. I try to pray my way through them. And I try not to hang on to things, but that can be hard as well. I'm working on a post about that myself. Forgive but don't forget? Or forgive and forget. That last one is extremely hard sometimes.

  13. Good question, Suzie, do we forget? We know God does, according to the Word, but I think most people believe they CAN'T forget, even if they do forgive.

  14. I think it's possible to forget, but what does the word "forget" actually translate. Is it forget as in never remember? Or is it forget as in never more hold you accountable? I think with God it may be more of the latter. After all, even though God forgives us our sin, forgiveness doesn't necessarily exempt us from the natural consequences.

    To simplify . . . let's say we were sexually loose before turning to Jesus. God forgives our sin but we don't get our v-card back or are instantly healed of any STDs. So if God "forgot" all our sins, then wouldn't he wonder, "gee, why does Suzie have so many STDs and keep asking to be healed? how did she get them?"

    Okay that may be a bit over-the-top, but I think if we start looking at forgiveness as no longer holding the person accountable, then we wouldn't feel so much like a failure when we couldn't forget the offense.

    So I can remember when person X did such-and-such that offended/hurt me, but I don't desire recompensence. Okay that's probably not spelled right.

    Dina once said that her gauge for if she's forgiven a person is if she can sincerely pray for God to bless the person.

    Her words cut deep.

    Forgiveness means letting go of the desire for the offended to be punished, doesn't it? I'm just not sure I'm completely there yet. But I want to be.

  15. I'm not sure about the "technical" definition, Gina. I'll have to look it up!
    I think when God "forgets" it means he clears the slate, so that when we go to Him He isn't looking at us and seeing that wretched thing we did. Maybe it's the same for us?
    And yes, I remember Dina saying that, too. A very powerful gauge, indeed!

  16. What a great post and very timely for me! Thank you for sharing this.

  17. You are welcome, @poetBeck! Thanks for commenting!


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