I wanted to walk right up to her and punch her in the nose. She deserved it. Who in the world did she think she was anyway? How could she have said what she said?
I was offended. I was shaking-with-rage mad. A woman in our church made a false accusation against my wife. How dare she do such a wicked thing.
I wanted to give her a chewing out she would remember for the rest of her life. I just seethed with anger and gave her dirty looks when she wasn’t looking. (to be continued…)
That event happened about thirty-seven years ago shortly after I accepted Christ. It reveals another of the deadly perils of offense. You can take up another person’s offense. You can be offended for another person even when they are not offended.
Listening to One Side of the Story
I learned this the hard way. When someone comes to me with a story about how they were mistreated in some way, it is only half of the story. There is always more than meets the eye.
As a pastor, many people come to me with struggles they are having in relationships. They sit down to tell their story and slowly, but surely, I would be upset with the one who was mistreating them in such a terrible way.
In my mind, I am picturing the other person as mean, cruel, insensitive, with a pair of horns growing out of their head and a pitchfork in their hands.
When they are telling me all about the other person, they will also say, “Oh, I’ve got my problems too,” but they never seem to talk about them. A brief mention of possible shortcomings and back to speaking ill of the person who hurt them.
Have you ever noticed that when someone tells a story they are almost always innocently standing by when this terrible person attacks them out of the blue? I just don’t know why they act the way they do.
Before we move on, let me say that I am not downplaying or ignoring the bad things that the other person is doing. I am saying that I have found that there are always two sides to the story and If I only listen to one, I don’t get the whole picture. If I don’t get the whole picture I can make wrong assumptions and wrong decisions.
Let me give you an example of how this works.
Jean comes to me telling me how abusive her husband is to her. She starts crying. She shows me her bruised arm and says, “Jim punched me so hard last night that he knocked me across the room and I fell on the coffee table. I called the police and he is in jail.” (to be continued…)
Picking Up Another’s Offense
I am immediately offended by what Jim did to Jean. I hate it when a man hits a woman. I start thinking what kind of man is he that thinks he hits his wife? Who does he think he is?
I am offended by Jim because of what he did to his wife. I have not even taken the time to talk with Jim to see what took place. I am 100% percent believing the story as Jean told it without seeking further evidence.
That’s the danger of picking up another’s offense. It does not even have to be based on reality. It is solely based on one person’s story. It’s totally based on one person’s perception of what took place.
Forming a Judgment
When we pick up an offense without finding out if a story is true we form a judgment against that person. In our eyes they are guilty and we judge them accordingly. We can think, Yeah, that Jim, he’s a wife beater.
It’s easy to form a judgment. It only takes a moment of time, but it can negatively influence your attitude toward another person. If I think that Jim is a wife beater, it influences everything I think about him.
That’s why it is so important to get all the evidence before we make a judgment. How would you like it if someone made an accusation against you and took you to court? The moment you walk into the courtroom the judge looks at you as says guilty.
What? Don’t I get to tell my side of the story? Don’t I get to present my evidence? That’s not fair. It’s not fair to Jim either.
We show wisdom if we do not take things at face value or accept the viewpoint of another person without finding out if the situation is true. What if Jean is just mad at Jim and wants to make him look like a jerk. What if there is more to the story than she is telling?
The Rest of the Story
So I decide to go and speak to Jim and get his side of the story. I decide not to accuse him of being a wife beater. I simply ask him his side of the story.
Jim tells me that he came home from work and Jean was drunk. They had a big fight a couple of days ago and they had not been talking. The moment he walked through the door Jean came at him with a baseball bat. She swung and missed and the bat smashed into the wall leaving a hole in the wall. Jim points out to the hole.
Jean pulls the bat back ready for another swing. Jim steps up to grab the bat and Jean in her drunken stupor falls on the table and bruises her arm.
Is Jim a wife beater? Not if his story is true. The only way to try and resolve it is to get both of them together and see if the truth comes out.
Slow to Offense. Slow to Judge.
As crazy as this story seems, things like this happen all of the time. Maybe not at the extreme levels of this story, but they happen. There are a few lessons that we can learn from this story.
The first and most obvious lesson is not to get offended for someone else. We have already talked about living a lifestyle of forgiveness and refusing to be offended by what people do to us. How much more should that apply to things that happen to other people?
The second lesson is not to judge without having all the facts. Don’t always accept everything that a person says as 100% accurate. There is always another side to the story. You cannot accurately judge a situation without hearing the other person’s side.
The third lesson is that even if the person did exactly what they said happened, does not give us a right to be offended at the other person. When we are offended we are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
If you are offended with a person you automatically carry a negative attitude toward the person. How could you ever be a peacemaker in the situation, if you have an attitude toward one of the people you are seeking to help?
The Good News
There is good news in all of this. I never punched the lady in the nose. I never chewed her out. I forgave her and she probably didn’t even know I was offended. Today she is one of our dear friends.
Thank God that you can be a forgiving person. You don't have to be offended by what someone else did to someone you know and love. You can release them into the hands of the Lord knowing He will ultimately make things right.
Do you have a story of being offended for someone else and you found out later you were wrong? Share it below.
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