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How should I respond when I am offended?

The key to overcoming bitterness

2 min

When someone offends you, your response can lead to the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness. You might be surprised by the far-reaching results of your attitudes and actions!

When someone offends you, your response can lead to the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness.

A Proud Response Leads to Bitterness

This sequence describes a bitter response to an offense:

  • Someone offends you.
  • You hold on to the offense and react with resentment.
  • A barrier to further communication comes between you and your offender.
  • Others sense your bitterness, and your offender tells his friends about your resentment.
  • Your friends join you in resenting your offender, and his friends join him in reacting to you.
  • Barriers and bitterness infect your community as others take up the offenses.

A Humble Response Leads to Forgiveness

This sequence describes a positive response to an offense:

  • Someone offends you.
  • Instead of holding on to the offense, you take it to the Lord and ask Him for His grace.
  • By God’s grace, you respond with forgiveness toward your offender.
  • This response strengthens your character and offers hope and healing to your offender.
  • Your offender tells his friends about your forgiveness.
  • You have opportunities to build new friendships and share the Gospel.
  • Lasting friendships bring joy and fulfillment.

In Hebrews 12:15, we find this warning: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” If we don’t respond to God’s grace in difficult situations, we will become bitter. Bitterness will not only affect us—it will affect others as well! 

An offense is a humbling situation. But in that initial moment of humility, God offers the grace to respond with forgiveness. “God . . . giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). By receiving God’s grace, you can turn away from the pride that rises up to react and take up an offense, thus avoiding bitterness and its effects. A God-honoring response of humility and forgiveness will bring healing and health to yourself and those around you. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ephesians 4:31–5:2).

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