When someone does something that offends you or they sin against you, how do you usually respond?
I’d love to encourage us all to take a time out to go pray and journal through our thoughts, anger, motives, and priorities if possible before we respond. It is easy to have a sinful knee-jerk response to someone’s sin against us. As Gary Thomas says in Sacred Marriage, “We are never more tempted to sin than when we are sinned against.” So, if we can take some time to really prayerfully reflect and seek God’s wisdom and His love and His heart, we may then have the strength to respond in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than in the power of our sinful flesh.
Here are some other suggestions to prayerfully consider (you are welcome to share any wisdom God has shown you about how to avoid lashing out in anger when you are sinned against):
- Respond with a whisper instead of raising your voice.
- Watch your tone of voice.
- Listen calmly (unless you are in serious danger, and then please get somewhere safe ASAP!)
- Force yourself to wait a few moments before responding.
- Don’t rush your response, particularly if the issue happens via email or by text – you don’t have to respond right away. You can take your time.
- It may be best not to engage in a discussion about a misunderstanding via email or text message. You miss the person’s tone of voice and facial expressions and there is much greater room for words and intentions to be misunderstood in writing. If possible, it may be best to try to talk to the person face to face.
- Ask questions calmly to be sure you understand.
- Try to see this person through God’s eyes.
- Think about how this person is made in the image of God and is to be treated with respect and honor.
- Ask God to give you His love for this person.
- Ask God to help you think of reasons why this person may be acting this way. Maybe he/she is caught in a prison of sin or is sick, exhausted, overwhelmed with problems, hurting, wounded, confused, deceived, far from God, spiritually dead and unable to respond in the power of God’s Spirit? Not that sin is ever right. But, if we can see that someone is doing the best he/she can with what they understand and their abilities at the moment, sometimes, it can help us to have more compassion.
- Many times, people don’t realize they are hurting us. I think of Jesus’ response to those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” If we truly realized what we were doing when we were sinning, none of us would sin. We would hate sin! We would beg God to give us His power over sin.
- It is ok to ask for time to think about things and to collect your thoughts, calm your emotions, and pray before saying anything that might be destructive.
- Don’t automatically assume he or she has evil motives – be sure you see real proof of evil motives and genuine evidence before making assumptions.
- Think to yourself, “Maybe this is an area where we just think very differently. Maybe it is not that one of us is right and one is wrong, but that we are very different. I want to understand his/her perspective better.”
- Don’t attack him/her.
- Ask yourself if this issue that you are so upset about is more important than your walk with Christ, your obedience to Him, or the unity in this relationship – that you are justified to respond in a sinful way. (Of course, we are never justified to sin in God’s sight. He desires us to respond without sin by the power of His Holy Spirit.)
- Realize that you may be misunderstanding this person’s heart or mind.
- Make yourself hear the other person out rather than jumping to defend yourself immediately before you completely understand what he/she is saying.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 1:19-21