A spirit of offense is not a mysterious, unknown spirit circling around us. Spirit of Offense simply means, we were hurt by someone and struggle in our spirit to let the offense go. Walking around with a spirit of offense, whether the hurt is big or small, can leave us spiritually and emotionally broken.
Being Hurt causes a Spirit of Offense
My first encounter with being hurt was in grade school. My best friend lived next door and we played every day. One day I ran outside to set up our usual jump rope game in her driveway, when I was approached by her older sister.
“You can’t cross this line”, she said. She was pointing to the crack in the sidewalk that separated our houses. She stood with her arms crossed blocking my way. What happened between us to cause this stand-off? Nothing really, just a misunderstanding during a game the previous day.
But both of us were offended, walking around with big chips on our shoulders. Fortunately, we were in grade school so after we argued and cooled down, we were back to our fun and games. The hurt forgotten.
Misunderstandings that leave us feeling offended or hurt are a natural part of living in relationships, but as adults, the stakes are higher and can cause a spirit of offense to attach itself to our hearts for a long time.
“An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city.
Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.” Proverbs 18:19
What is a spirit of offense?
A spirit of offense is feeling resentful because of an actual or perceived insult. Sometimes it is an actual insult and other times it is an unintended slight that we misinterpret. Regardless of intent or not, we still have to deal with the issue of our hurt feelings.
There are many opportunities to offend others and be offended. Offense becomes a problem and moves into a spirit of offense when we don’t process the hurt and let it go; we begin to nurse our offense. At some point it can start to consume our thought life and affect our ability to walk out our God given purpose.
What causes a spirit of offense?
There are too many factors to list that cause us to be hurt and develop a spirit of offense. Here is a list of four that contribute to people feeling hurt or offended.
1. Unrealistic Expectations
Dr. Bill McRae states in Bible.org that unrealistic expectations lead to many hurts in relationships: “You may not agree with another person’s expectations, but you do need to understand what they expect. Don’t guess-so, know-so! Ask and listen! Give the person the opportunity to express. On the other hand, you have expectations. Don’t withhold them. Don’t be silent. Express them.”
2. Our own Wounded Spirit
When we understand who we are in Christ and surrender to a life following Jesus, we are able to start working through our wounds and not use them as a filter to judge others.
3. Holding on to Things too Long
Sometimes we are insulted and we just have to shake it off. Keep things in perspective. Friendships are valuable and it is helpful if we acquire the skill of letting things go.
4. Assuming a Negative Intent
I have gotten better at not assuming another person’s intent. I am trying to believe that they did not mean what I interpreted. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
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How to overcome a spirit of offense
Overcoming a spirit of offense takes intentionality and a humble spirit willing to surrender the right to stay hurt. There are steps we can take that help us move to releasing the person and avoiding a spirit of offense from taking root.
1)Acknowledge that we were hurt by something someone said or did even if it is an irrational hurt. God is ready and willing to hear our cries and help us walk through our pain.
2)Don’t quickly turn to others for counsel without serious consideration and prayer. If we need to process and discuss the offense, one person can provide the wisdom we seek. A spirit of offense usually involves just 2 people, and by seeking counsel from many others we create a bigger problem. We start out innocently working toward recovery and can easily get trapped into offending someone else.
3)Pray for your own grieving spirit and for the other person.
4)Walk through forgiveness even if you don’t feel it. That means if we see the person who hurt us, act graciously. This can be difficult, but such an important step in healing.
“Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” Proverbs 29:11 NLT
How did Jesus Forgive and Overcome Hurt?
When the apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times are we to forgive others, Jesus said, we are to forgive 70×7…that’s a lot of forgiving. Jesus’ point was to never tire of forgiving others.
Forgiveness should become a natural emotion as we walk out our transformed life in Christ.
Jesus forgives everyone! There is nothing we can do to separate us from His love.
It is hard to develop a spirit of offense if we are good forgivers, and as Christians this should be our motto…”I forgive well”!
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3
“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered[l] for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God” 1 Peter 2:21-21 NLT
Books on overcoming a spirit of offense
I find it helpful to read stories about how others overcame their hurt. Here are 3 books that address overcoming a spirit of offense.
“Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense” by John Bevere
“Woman thou art loosed! Healing the Wounds of the Past” by T.D. Jakes
“It’s Not Supposed to be this Way” by Lysa TerKeurst
Learning to overcome a Spirit of Offense
Since that day in front of my house many years ago, I have had many types of friendships and numerous misunderstandings; opportunities to learn how to process hurt, so it does not become a spirit of offense. Christian friendships usually involve all of the emotions, but that is part of loving God and loving others.
Once I forgive someone, learning to overcome offense comes naturally. It flows from a heart that strives to be free and more like Jesus.
What about you? How have you learned to forgive and overcome a spirit of offense?