Are You Easily Offended?

Is there anyone who hasn’t been hurt at one time or another by the words of others? The offending party may have been insensitive or angry and was probably in the wrong, but is that the end of the story? Do unkind words have to lead to a broken relationship?

We can’t control others, so what can we do if they don’t recognize their offense? What if they don’t think it was a big deal and don’t see a need to apologize? When several people tell us we are too easily offended, we may need to ask ourselves, is it true? Could we be overly sensitive to what others say to or about us?

Marriages and family relationships are often harmed because of minor disrespectful comments and actions that escalate into angry arguments or icy silences. Offense can pile on top of offense until the original attack is forgotten.

If we are offended, is there anything we can do to save the relationship?
In most cases, we cannot control what others do, but we can control how we react or respond to their words or actions. This is addressed in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes.

“Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you” (Ecclesiastes 7:21).

Wise King Solomon advises that we should not take seriously everything people say about us, and that is true whether it is good or bad. One can cause pride; the other, anger. But certainly it can be unpleasant to hear that someone has spoken critically of us.

Solomon goes on to say that all of us have said things we shouldn’t have about someone else sometime in our lives (verse 22). It is all too human to slip into the problem of gossiping or slandering someone behind his or her back. We should strive to overcome these human tendencies, but no one has ever gone through life and not succumbed to these weaknesses at some time. “For there is not a just man on earth who does good [all the time] and does not sin” (verse 20).

We might wish that everyone liked us and spoke highly of us all the time, but that is unrealistic. No one can go through life without having to face personal criticism of some type in some way. If we allow those things to upset us each time we hear of them, our lives will wind up being miserable.

Christ left us an example

Jesus said that if we are patient and merciful to others, God will be patient and merciful to us. And it is the humble, or meek, who in time will be the rulers under Jesus Christ—who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5, 7).Before His death Jesus was beaten, spit on and reviled. How did He respond? Peter wanted to use a sword on those who came to arrest Jesus. But Jesus said that if that were the way to go, He could call down thousands of powerful angels to strike His adversaries! But that wasn’t what His Father wanted. Jesus came to die for the sins of humankind, so He had to go through it all (see Matthew 26:51-54).

In time Peter learned a better way. In his first letter he wrote how people of God should respond to wrongs they might experience:

“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:19-23).

In reality, it is our pride that makes it so difficult to overlook a critical or negative statement someone makes about us. In addition to making it difficult to forgive others who have done us wrong, pride can also hinder our Christian growth.

Look back at Jesus’ Sermon on Mount, in the beginning section referred to as the Beatitudes. Jesus said that if we are patient and merciful to others, God will be patient and merciful to us. And it is the humble, or meek, who in time will be the rulers under Jesus Christ—who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5, 7).

How To Show Appreciation

The apostle Paul said we should “encourage one another and build up one another” and “appreciate those who diligently labor among you” (1 Thessalonians 5:11-12, New American Standard Bible). Verse 12 refers to how we relate to our spiritual leaders, but it is a principle that can be applied to other relationships as well.

The right words can uplift and strengthen others (Proverbs 12:25; 16:24), and some of the most encouraging words of all are heartfelt appreciation. When we express this kind of sentiment, we are following the steps of Jesus Christ, who praised people when they did what was right (Matthew 15:28; Mark 14:6-9; Luke 7:9; 21:1-4).

The Bible includes many other examples of the power of appreciation:

  • Paul complimented the brethren in Rome, Colosse, Thessalonica and Corinth for their conduct.
  • Boaz commended Ruth for her kindness and devotion (Ruth 2:11-12; 3:10).
  • Jethro instructed his daughters to invite Moses to eat a meal with them to thank him for helping them (Exodus 2:16-20).
  • The Proverbs 31 woman was praised by her husband and children (verses 28-31).

We, too, should be thankful for the people in our lives and be willing to bestow praise when it is called for.

The No. 1 reason we should offer appreciation to others is that God’s Word tells us we should strive to be like Him—and showing appreciation is part of God’s unselfish nature. Beyond that, it’s also helpful to understand exactly how appreciation is beneficial to the giver and receiver. Here are some of the fruits of appreciation:

  • It makes others feel valued and loved. To tell someone, “I was impressed by your music performance,” or, “Thanks for your help; I couldn’t have finished the project without you,” and mean it, communicates to him or her that it was worthwhile, and that he or she is needed and wanted. We all want to know that our lives count and that we matter to someone.
  • It can inspire others to work harder, persevere and stay on the right path. When Paul expressed appreciation to the brethren, he knew he would be spurring them on and encouraging them to live godly lives. And when my editor pointed out what I was doing right, that gave me a resolve to not give up when the job got challenging.
  • It deepens the bonds between us and others. Psychologists tell us that when we express appreciation to other people, they appreciate us more, which amplifies those positive feelings. Connections between people strengthen when each person feels appreciated.
  • It takes the focus off of us, which keeps us grounded. God created us to need the help and support of others. Yet the natural human mind wants to exalt the self. As a culture, we tend to idolize the self-made man. These approaches make it harder to see what others have to offer. However, when we direct our attention to other people’s skills, talents, hard work and good ideas, it helps us remember how much we benefit from them and that we should celebrate others’ accomplishments—not just our own. This helps us develop a more godly approach when interacting with others.
  • It helps us stay positive. By trying to appreciate those around us, our demeanor improves. There is little room for gossip, backbiting or complaining when we’re focusing on others’ strengths—instead of zeroing in on their weaknesses. This is true even if we don’t verbalize our admiration. Just being more mindful of what there is to appreciate about others can put us in a thankful attitude and make us more pleasant to be around.
  • It creates harmony. Being appreciative can prevent tension and conflicts. We’re less likely to be frustrated or irritable with people when we’re truly thankful for them. One woman confided to me, “My husband has certain idiosyncrasies that really grate at me. When I find myself getting annoyed, I start thinking about all his good qualities, and that helps me keep things in perspective.”

5 Ideas for Fasting

Jesus talks about this proper way to fast because he wants believers to fast for God, not for man. He wants to ensure the believer isn’t showing off or bragging about his or her fasting.

“When you fast, don’t look like those who pretend to be spiritual. They want everyone to know they’re fasting, so they appear in public looking miserable, gloomy, and disheveled. Believe me, they’ve already received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:16 (The Passion Translation)
He also doesn’t say “If you fast …” but “When you fast …” Jesus assumes the believers he is talking to already know this is part of the Christian lifestyle. This is a great opportunity for believers today to capture Jesus’ words and implement them in their lives. But before someone jumps head first into not eating food, it’s important to look at scripture and see why people fast.

1. Fasting From Food

Start small. Set aside a lunch or a full day’s worth of meals. Eventually you can grow this discipline to be longer. Remember the purpose of fasting is to understand who God is and rely on him. When you experience hunger pains, don’t focus on the fact that you can’t eat. Rather thank God for who he is, and thank him for being the ultimate sustainer of your life.

2. Fasting From Television

Rather than sitting for hours watching TV or Netflix, take 30 minutes or an hour that you would normally spend on the couch and read your bible or pray. This doesn’t have to be anything long or strenuous. It’s a simple time swap. You are swapping something earthly that fades quickly for something heavenly that will last for eternity.

3. Fasting From Social Media

Take a day or a week and fast from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or any other forms of social media. If you feel the urge to check these social platforms, pray and ask God to show you another piece of his character. Set a journal beside your work computer or at home on your countertop. Begin writing down the truths of who God is and what he’s teaching you. You may begin to notice how much of your attitude and mindset is shaped by those you constantly see on social media. This is a potential opportunity to repent for not finding your identity in the Lord and begin to build up that identity one day at a time.

4. Fasting From Exercise

Some people find their peace and trust in their ability to care for their bodies through exercise. Perhaps if you take three days or a full week without avidly working out and spend it seeking the Lord, you may begin to discover how much he is in control. Press in and discover what he says about human bodies and how he controls everything. Repent from trusting in your own abilities and ask him to replace those thoughts. Even though exercise is a good habit, the reasoning behind your weight lifting or yoga practices might shift.

5. Fasting From Separation

If you are are the type of person who would like to be alone and work on your own things rather than be with your family, one good way to fast is from separation. Make a plan to engage yourself with your family by scheduling a recurring game night or going out to eat. Perhaps set aside time to go on a walk with your kids or your spouse. Be intentional with your time and allow the Lord the chance to use this time to love on your family.

This list of things to fast from is not exhaustive. Discover other areas in your life where you spend a lot of time that would be good to give up for the sake of the Lord. Perhaps it’s time on your computer, sports, sugar, caffeine, playing video games, reading other books, spending time with friends, or something else. But remember you are doing this for the Lord, not for man. Thankfully when Jesus talks about fasting, he talks about motive (Matthew 6:16). We do not fast as a means to get what we want or to show off. Fasting goes beyond this because at the center of a person’s heart should be the Lord. It is a place where God can grab someone’s heart and open their eyes to the reality of who he is and what he’s doing.

As you begin your journey into fasting, seek the Lord with all your heart. Have a plan and enjoy getting to know the Lord God one step at a time.

Intercessory Prayer: How Does God Want Us to Pray for Others?

God gives us instructions to pray for others in several places in the Bible. The apostle James tells us to “pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

The apostle Paul encourages us to intercede for Church members and ministers, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:18-20).

Paul exhorts us “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus Christ even commanded, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, emphasis added).

Why does God want us to pray for others? Because intercessory prayer reflects God’s own character of outgoing love and mercy. God wants us to think like He does, and praying for others helps us to think beyond ourselves and to grow in compassion for others.

God compares prayer with sweet-smelling incense that pleases Him (Revelation 5:8).

Intercessory prayer is not a numbers game. God does not have to wait until 10 or 20 or 100 people pray about a situation in order to intervene. Prayer is not a vote or petition that God has to act on if enough people “sign” it. Our prayers can’t force God to do anything. He can and does act when the time is best, whether one or a million pray about it.

Also, intercessory prayer is not something we should do to try to earn points with God so we can collect when something bad happens to us. Our motivation must be love—outgoing, unselfish concern.

What about the person seeking prayers? Can a person ask other believers to pray for him and then find it unnecessary to pray himself? No, we can’t delegate prayer. Prayer is part of our personal relationship with God, and so we must go to Him fervently ourselves, whether or not others are praying for us.