Every day we have opportunities to be offended by something or someone. We can choose whether to react to the offense, or to let it go. I’d like to share my story with you about overcoming offense.
I remember a time when several depressing things occurred in the span of one month. The wage for my contractor position was cut by $20 per day. I had a couple of friends and family members who were supposed to help me do some things with my house or just visit from out of town, and I felt ignored and neglected. Then to top it all off, someone that I dated married a good friend of mine (or so I thought–I was friends with the female before I met the guy). So I had several opportunities in that month to become offended with people.
But it’s not just other people’s behavior that can cause heartache. It’s also hopes that go unfulfilled.
I’ve dated a couple of people in situations that looked promising, but if it’s not the right time, or we cannot agree on a non-negotiable area, the relationship ends. It was especially hard to let go of someone, or the idea of a future with someone, because I got my hopes up.
There is a proverb that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). It’s when you see something right in front of you that you really want, but because you know it’s not right for you down the line, or you have misgivings, or there’s one thing that’s not quite right, you say no. But saying no to yourself is hard. Facing the fact that you can’t have something you’ve worked hard for or always dreamed of is even harder.
But the reward in letting go is that your hand is open to receive what’s really for you, and you grow up in the process. In Jeremiah 29:11, God told Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So therefore, I have to move on and not be offended by the situation, because I know that God has something better for me.
Have you ever looked all over the house for something, and you know you’ve seen it, but yet you can’t find it. The thing is, this is a time when you really want it, or you really need it. So you give up, frustrated, hoping that it will turn up. Days or weeks go by, and all of the sudden, there it is! How did you not notice? Things can appear when we’re not looking for them, and we see many cases that it was there all along. I am hoping that is what will happen for me.
What It Looks Like
Author and psychologist Susan Page says that when you decide to let go of a person or a situation, here is what it looks like:
“You’re no longer anxious about it. You’re free of a burden, and you have inner peace. You’re letting go of the struggle, panic, and the longing for things to be other than they are. Your worry, discouragement, and apprehension will vanish. You are what you are, life is what it is, and it’s all OK. You accept life as it comes.
“You relinquish control and do not try to manipulate situations or people. Your attitude is patient optimism. You trust that it will all work out for you. “
During Lent season, I didn’t feel led to fast certain foods or give up chocolate, although I tried. I unconsciously decided to let go of things that were causing me so frustration, but could do nothing about. I was thinking about how not to think about what I was thinking about! But all of the sudden, one day, it just happened—I wasn’t bothered by the same things that used to bother me about people’s behavior. I used to spend so much time wondering why someone didn’t treat me a certain way or reciprocate based on what I had done for them. Or why I was being a good person but did not seem to get the things I really longed for. Or why I couldn’t stop myself from certain behaviors I wanted to change just for myself. I still think about these things now, but not long enough for it to fester inside of me and become bitter, or foster resentment.
I let go of offenses by accepting my hurts, feeling those negative feelings that come with the hurt briefly, and then getting over them as quickly as possible without rationalizing or over-analyzing people’s behaviors, wondering why they did what they did, or why they won’t apologize. Proverbs 19:11 says, “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” It is such a relief not to reason and worry about these things anymore!
I check my progress by the feeling I have inside, whether it’s pressure or peace, and my general sense of frustration or contentment. I won’t be focused on my status, but continuing to operate and be successful in spite of it. And I always have to stay in prayer to keep those old tendencies from creeping back in.
Letting go makes us stronger– we can withstand different tests in the future and be an example to people who are watching us, whether it be others that are going through the same thing, people waiting for us to fail, or the youth who love us and look up to us for advice and direction, and as role models.
So you see, letting go is not a science; it’s an art. As the apostle Paul wrote,
“I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” (Philippians 3:13-14).
And I imagine myself, like the song Imagine Me (by Kirk Franklin), and a stronger, person, free of the bondage of offense and self-doubt (just a portion of the lyrics follows):
of all of the ones who hurt me
cause they never did deserve me
can you imagine me…
to thoughts that try to control me
remembering all you told me
Lord can you imagine me?
and not letting people break me down
you won’t get that joy this time around
Can you imagine me?
Letting go of my past
and glad I have another chance
and my heart will dance…
trusting You totally
finally I can
I admit it was hard to see
You being in love with someone like me
finally I can