Let's get one thing straight from the start: I am nowhere near polished but rather constantly in the process of working towards genuine victory in this area. Walking through Celebrate Recovery's 12 Steps and years of having a solid accountability partner to call me out and hold the mirror up to my face has been a recipe for growth in this area. Ignoring pain or conflict often makes me extra sensitive, and that's when those who hold me accountable in life gently remind me that not everything is about me, and that I either need to confront the offender or graciously forgive them noting that their offense is on them-not me. When I'm focusing on my own character defects and humble in spirit I see so much victory in this area--I feel like a tree with solid roots, unwavering. However, when my pride is rearing its head or I feel my character is being attacked I become defensive inside and out leading to me becoming easily offended and uprooted! Here are some truths that have helped me in the journey to become unoffendable.
Accept the Truth that Hurt People Hurt People
Some of the harsh legalistic people I've met have some of the saddest and most painful stories. They were hurt by the chaos of their childhood, and therefore in order to maintain a sense of control on life have become extremely strict and legalistic--often wounding others around them. It's how they protect themselves, through control. I've even lived this out on a regular basis when it comes to cleaning. When I'm hurting or feeling out of control I've often morphed into a "cleaning tornado" that will upset anyone in my way. I've had to work on this and am still working on it!
Over the years I've watched women wound other women over the silliest things. Oftentime our offenses to others have nothing to do with them, but rather with what SOMEONE did to us. It's like when I have to apologize to my children for being harsh and honestly tell them, "I wasn't being bossy because of anything you did, but because my heart is hurting today, and that was wrong. I'm so sorry. Will you please forgive me?" When we realize that most offenses are because of the other person's own pain and brokenness it moves us towards compassion, rather than being easily offended. Thus, the more I deal with my own pain, brokenness, unhealthy habits, and relational conflict, the more healed and restored I become-- readying me for whatever anyone throws my way. I want to continue to be aware to work through my own hurts to help me stop hurting and offending others.
Be Able to Be At Peace While in Conflict
As a recovering people pleaser I used to physically hurt while in conflict--with myself, family, friends, and even my spouse. I always wanted everything to be worked out and couldn't bear to "wait and process" any conflict. This often led to me running my tongue and hurting the people I love even more because I would keep talking to try and resolve things when what was really needed was time for everyone to process. Working through my past pain has helped me gain the confidence to move forward with life while I might still be in stagnant conflict with someone. If I can't learn to be content while in conflict, then I never will. Because the reality is ALL relationships are going to endure conflict--parents, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even people you don't know--you're going to conflict with. This is also called co-dependency--being excessively emotionally dependent on someone. I didn't even realize I struggled with co-dependency until I joined Celebrate Recovery's 12 Step Group. Learning to be okay while your relationship is not okay is definitely a process with the Lord that involves a new way of thinking. It takes lots of time and practice to create new ways to think, behave, and ultimately live. There is hope! While healthy relationships call for "interdependency" the ONLY person we can fully depend on is Jesus Christ. (Wondering if you struggle with co-dependency? Click here to see a great description from Celebrate Recovery!)
Rest Secure in Christ, He's the Only Solid Rock to Stand On
When I start to find my security and hope for the future in money, my plans, or even other people, the ground starts to shake. Sometimes I don't even realize the ground beneath me has changed until I start to sink. Be careful if you think you're standing firm that you don't stumble! Even when we find our identity in Christ we have to be aware that unless we are intentional with focusing our mind on Christ that we can start thinking "we've got this" and before we know it we've stepped onto the sinking sand of other people's opinions, our own control, and pride. That's when we become insecure and easily offended! If my security came from a lack of conflict or offense it would not be lasting. I have to realize that I'm a broken human who's going to hurt others, as well as be hurt by others. The only solid ground to stand on emotionally is Jesus Christ. He's unchanging. Always faithful. When I'm relying on Christ for my emotional well-being and foundation I can face trials without complete devastation. I can inventory the root of other's offenses and quickly let go, forgive, and move forward only owning my part versus being co-dependent and taking on the emotional needs of everyone. It's truly a freedom I didn't know I longed for.
Any life change takes time, repetition, patience, and perseverance. Becoming unoffendable is a new way of thinking and living. It doesn't mean I don't care when people hurt me. Rather, it means I'm aware of the true cause of their pain and heartache and can validate that. People's words and actions are still going to wound from time to time, but the more aware I can be about the state of the person doing the wounding and my own state, the quicker I can let go of offense. Jesus offers unconditional love and forgiveness; it's my job as his disciple to pass that forgiveness and grace on through me to myself and others. Praise God He's there to help me when the offense seems too much to let go of!
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."