How to Respond When People Offend You
What do you do when people offend you, insult you, treat you badly, or persecute you? I’ve been having to really work on this lately. Back in December I mentioned that I was getting an increasing number of negative comments on my blog posts. Some were from well-meaning Christians who felt the need to correct me. Others were from people of a differing religious belief system who wanted to argue and debate over doctrinal issues. Some were from people, Christian or not, that just intensely disagreed with things that I said (and not always in the nicest way). Lately I’ve been getting a bit lambasted on Pinterest with comments from atheists, specifically about a post on “How to Pray for Unsaved Loved Ones”. I guess you could call it a persecution of sorts.
Apparently some of them are taking offense that I, as well as others who are pinning these prayers, might be praying for them, and they want me to stop. Well guess what? Not gonna happen. And now, since they were so kind as to leave me a comment and give me their name, I can pray for them more specifically. By name. Which, by the way, I wasn’t doing before because I didn’t even know them. 🙂 They can’t really stop me from praying can they? I know…I’m such a rebel. The problem that I’ve been struggling with though when I get offended by their comments is wanting to reply to them.
These commenters have written things that are critical and insulting. They say things and make accusations that aren’t true. They take things I say and twist or misconstrue them. They definitely appear to be in “attack” mode. My first gut reaction is that I’m extremely offended. I feel very angry because I feel a sense of injustice. I deeply want to want to argue with their comments. It takes an awful lot of restraint not to say anything. Instead of arguing and fighting back, I’ve had to learn to hold my tongue and fight back with prayer.
I’ve really had to re-read and follow my own advice about adhering to the communication guidelines laid out in the bible and about using my “Miranda Rights” by exercising my right to remain silent (because if not I probably will incriminate myself with an ungodly response to which I WILL be held accountable to God someday!). I’m having to follow my own tips on not being nasty back to others who have been nasty to me. To be honest, it’s not always easy.
My pastor mentioned once that many times we have this wrong attitude: “I have to fight because I’m right.” Unfortunately though this need to be right and to prove to others that we are right will hurt relationships and our ability to have influence on others. It’s human nature to want to defend ourselves, but we may end up fighting to win a battle only to lose the war. My pastor said that we have to learn to let some battles go (even if we’re right!) in order for the greater purpose of winning the war. In other words, we have to learn to pick our fights. 1 Timothy 6:12 says to “Fight the GOOD fight”. Not all fights are good or are worth the fighting.
So what do we do when people offend us, insult us, treat us badly, or persecute us?
Take Some Practical Steps When People Offend You:
When people offend you …Learn to KMS: Keep Mouth Shut. 🙂 Sometimes you will do more damage when you speak—even if you are right and even if you are just defending yourself. Sometimes the very best thing you can do is to hold your tongue and ignore the insults. Pick your fights carefully if you do choose to speak up (follow the guidelines here and here). Ask yourself if defending yourself or proving that you are right is really worth potentially losing that relationship or losing any positive influence or impact that you might have on that other person. Keep in mind too that the bible says that even fools appear wise when they keep their mouths shut and that too much talk can make you look like a fool. Let others look like the fool, not you. By me not replying to those nasty attacks on Pinterest, they look like the fool, not me.
“If you are sensible, you will control your temper. When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it.” Proverbs 19:11 (GNT)
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” 1 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28 (NLT)
“Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.” Ecclesiastes 5:3 (NLT)
- When people offend you …Pray for them. Hold your tongue (KMS), and fight back with prayer instead. Sometimes this one is a little hard (unless they’ve told you NOT to, then it’s easier because it seems like a double-dog-dare and after all, they’re not the boss of you! 😉 ). Praying for them will help them AND you. It’s harder to be upset at somebody when you are praying for them.
“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:44 (NLT)
“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:28 (NIV)
- When people offend you …Put yourself in their shoes—use empathy. Sometimes the blow of being offended or attacked doesn’t seem so harsh if we can try to see where they are coming from. For example, I might have been offended too if I believed the way they did and read what I wrote. If I was an atheist and read a prayer for unbelievers that used terms like “stony, stubborn and unresponsive”, that might bother me too. I can see where, from their perspective, this may come across as condescending (even if that was not at all my intention).
- When people offend you …Don’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians. We shouldn’t be so shocked or upset when non-Christians don’t live according to Christian standards. We can’t expect them to follow something that they don’t even believe in. Until they are saved, they are blind to the things of God. God also doesn’t want us judging people outside of relationship with him—that’s His job.
“But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 3:4 (NLT)
“If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT)
“It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NLT)
- When people offend you …Remember that God loves them too, just as much as He loves you in fact. It’s not up to you to decide what they deserve. This is very hard for me. If I’m being COMPLETELY honest and transparent, there are moments when I feel like certain people don’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness, and I would personally rather see them go to hell. Pretty harsh, right? Don’t tell me you haven’t had some of those same thoughts. It’s still wrong though. It’s not up to me because I’m not God. God can be just, fair, and give them consequences and still love them.
- When people offend you …Be Kind—Kindness leads to repentance. God’s kindness is intended to turn people from their sin and to lead them to repentance… NOT hateful “you’re wrong, you’re gonna burn in hell” talk. That kind of talk and attitude will only push people away. Kindness is much more effective. It’s how God reaches us, so that’s how we should reach others too.
“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4 (NLT)
- When people offend you …Keep in mind that it’s not really them that the nastiness is coming from, it’s what or who is influencing them. Just like God can use people to bless and encourage us, the devil will also use people to discourage and hurt us. Expect that if you put yourself “out there” you WILL be attacked at some point, especially if you are doing something good. The devil will attack those who are a threat. Learn to take it as a compliment!
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
It’s interesting to me that the majority of the negative comments that I get are on: #1-Salvation issues (praying for unsaved loved ones to come to Christ and leading someone to Christ) and #2-My most popular pin/repins on Pinterest. Funny that the comments are on THE most important decision a person will ever make (salvation/a relationship with Jesus) and maybe the most important message I can get out there. With it having so many repins on Pinterest, it’s being spread to and used by more people, therefore a bigger threat to the devil. Just based on these two things, OF COURSE Satan going to try to attack me because it’s dangerous for him. Keeping this in mind helps when I get offended…because it means that I must be offending Satan! [insert sinister laugh] My plan to take over the world (for God, that is) must be working!
How do you respond when people offend you? Leave a comment below (click on the post link to join the conversation if you’re viewing through e-mail).
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