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!
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?