A blue heart drawn on cardboard reminds us to move from wounds to wisdom to become unoffendable.

Wounds to Wisdom: Overcoming Offense with a Biblical Perspective 

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A cursory look at social media highlights the pervasive culture of offense in today’s society. Instead of brushing off a simple discourtesy and moving on, videos of an insulted party seething over an offense amplify the incident, garnering thousands of likes and comments. And hell hath no fury like the supposed “righteous” indignation aroused by political dissent: You dislike my favorite politician? How dare you! You disagree with me on an issue? Why, the very nerve! It’s become routine to take the words of someone on “the other side” completely out of context in order to berate and shame instead of simply giving the benefit of the doubt. So how can we move from nursing these wounds to wisdom in our interactions? 

We need to ask the question: Why are we, as a society, like this? Why do we so desperately seek, both online and off, to compete in a game of Who’s the Biggest Victim?  

The Root Issue

As we’ve pushed God out of our worldview, we’ve created a vacuum. Man is a worshipping creature, and apart from worshipping the Living God, he will worship false gods, including himself, which is exactly what nursing a grudge causes us to do. 

We’ve all felt it before, that uniquely satisfying rush that comes from being the wronged party. There’s no other feeling like it. Ironically, seeing ourselves as the victim in a scenario gives us a strange sense of power: We are right, and the offender is wrong. We have become the god, and the other person has sinned against us. We hold the power to punish or forgive. It appears we prefer wounds to wisdom in these situations. 

The One True God warns us against this temptation of setting ourselves up as “little g” gods. The crux of Christianity is God forgiving us, and when we forgive others, this spiritual discipline reminds us of who we were before we began following Jesus—sinners in need of a Savior. When we forgive, we release the notion that we ourselves sit on the throne of judgment.  

The Trap

And yet, while we are aware of our calling to forgive the “big things,” it’s those minor, day-to-day offenses that can become the grain of sand in our shoe, providing small but constant irritation. To overcome this trap—and, like most of Satan’s best traps, it hides from us by seeming so inconsequential—we must remind ourselves daily that we can’t choose what other people say and do, but we can choose how we perceive it. 

A crab trap on a beach reminds us how taking offense can keep us from moving from wounds to wisdom.

The ancient Greek word for offense is skandalon, a noun naming part of a hunter’s trap. The skandalon is the trigger that holds the bait, and when the bait is taken, the trap activates and captures the prey.  When we take offense, we are choosing to take the bait. We can choose instead to hold fast to our worth in the Lord and let an offense slide. We can be slow to anger (James 1:19) and rid ourselves of bitterness (Ephesians 4:31). That’s how we move from wounds to wisdom and begin overlooking offenses. 

Proverbs 19:11 tells us, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Also, Proverbs 12:16 says, “A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.” How often would you say you find yourself insulted? The truth is, most of us encounter about the same amount of potentially insulting words and behaviors. But some of us pay more attention to them than others do. 

The Way of Escape

Actions and words that could be taken as insults rarely register on the radar of those not looking for offense—those who think the best of others and assume they reciprocate that courtesy. My husband is one of these people. Even outright insults barely ruffle his feathers at all.

Once, when an unkind person said something rude about him—a remark that would’ve made most people furious—Dwight barely gave it a second thought. I asked how he remained so imperturbable, and he responded as if the answer were obvious: “I know what he said isn’t true, and I don’t care that he thinks that about me, so why would I be bothered?” He’s learned the art of moving from wounds to wisdom instead of taking offense. 

Psychologists say that those most easily offended are those who are most insecure. Notice that Dwight didn’t get upset because he knew it wasn’t true. Often when we take offense, it’s because a remark confirms our negative self-image or steps on our toes in an area where we feel we’ve fallen short. We can’t “let it go” or “get over it” because we feel exposed. Setting ourselves up as the “god” who has been sinned against helps us regain a sense of power.

Listen to a short segment from this Abide meditation based on Ephesians 4:2-3. Let the words encouraging you to let go of bitterness sink deep into your heart.

Next time someone pushes your buttons, instead of responding in anger, take a moment to pray for that person. Those who have victory in Jesus have no need to play victim. 

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