Whose at fault when you are offended? Is it the fault of the person who offended us? Is it our fault for taking offense? This is a question that I struggle with even now as I write this post.
When something bothers us, we look for something or someone to blame. Sometimes we are comfortable blaming ourselves and accepting when we are at fault. Sometimes we are unable to accept fault at all. Even when we can prove fault with visual evidence and credible testimony; we can have trouble accepting the evidence as true.
You can determine whose at fault when you are offended by exploring several factors. These factors consist of what happened, your previous experiences, your beliefs, your perceptions, and your relationship with the offender.
Misunderstandings Influenced by our Differences
Misunderstanding someone is a common reason to be offended. Often what we hear and see are assumed to mean things different than intended. Some of these misunderstandings are based on life experiences, cultural or religious differences, social differences, generational differences, and differences in the way we think. These differences aren’t anyone’s fault and there is nothing wrong with having differences, but differences create conflict. We have to do a better job of knowing when offense is intended by seeking clarification before taking offense.
If a person is intentionally trying to hurt you or someone you know with their words or actions, that will be apparent when asking for clarification. Too often we jump to this conclusion without giving each other the benefit of the doubt and seeking clarification. We should always assume first the best of each other, then if correction to that is necessary it will become obvious after further discussion. Determining if there was a misunderstanding can help us understand whose at fault when you are offended.
Discerning the Truth
Too often do we as Christians judge others by our perceptions and not by actions. Jesus said to judge correctly. The use of judge here is discern between the truth and falsehood and between what is right and wrong. We can’t continue to be offended by thoughts we have placed in our own minds to feed the beast of discontent in our hearts. When investigating whose at fault when you are offended, it is just as important to be honest with yourself.
23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
In order to judge correctly, we have to take a step back from emotion and preference. We have to evaluate what is known, seek to clarify what is not known, and make a determination about the truth. This truth isn’t your brother’s truth, or your neighbors truth, it is the truth. Our perceptions are what lead to a falsehood about a situation. We have to do our best to separate what we believe a person has said or done from what they intended to say or do. More important than the words or actions is their intent.
1 Chronicles 29:17
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent.
The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable—
how much more so when brought with evil intent!
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?
Determine Intent and Assume the Best
If I asked 20 Christians why they tithe, they will probably give different variations of the same answer and some completely different answers. What if one of the 20 responds that they only tithe because they want to go to heaven. Their intent has been made clear. We should give freely and joyfully because God expects us to take care of each other and to hold others in the same regard as ourselves. This allows us to demonstrate our love for God by doing this, by loving our neighbor, and by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We demonstrate our love for each other when we don’t immediately assume their reasoning for tithing is to get to heaven, regardless of things they may have said and done to give us that impression. Start by assuming the best about that person, regardless of who they are. Ask them for clarification,. Make sure you believe what you do because their intent really was to make it to heaven and that is all.
Verify Your Perceptions
It isn’t hard to check with another person to verify our perceptions. The biggest obstacle to this is our own resistance to accepting responsibility for making a mistake. We need to stop fearing our own weakness and accept that we are very flawed and require constant self and peer correction. Together we are strong, divided we are weak. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25-28).
So back to the question, whose at fault when you are offended? It is likely both of you. We take far too much pride in the way we perceive things. Often making assertions that our perception is truth. If you admit that all of us are flawed, how can you then believe your perceptions are perfect? We can’t just think the worst about others. Doing this without verification demonstrates loving ourselves more than we love each other. Regardless of what happened to offend you, you probably perceived it to be worse or misunderstood something about the situation. Be open to making mistakes, so you can correct how you think in these situations. Be open to a process of getting clarification, so you can free yourself of guilt from wrongly accusing others in your heart.
Make Your Tree Good
33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The Offender Should Make Changes
The other person who did the offending needs to evaluate how they present themselves to others. Clearly something isn’t being demonstrated or expressed in the way they intended. If they meant to offend you (only God knows this for sure) then you should forgive them. This doesn’t mean that you should allow them to hurt others, you must take steps to correct sin in the church as Jesus taught (Matthew 18:15-20).
However, for what they’ve done to you, you should forgive them. You shouldn’t forgive them because they’ve done something to earn it, or because they deserve it, but because you are commanded by God to forgive them. Forgiveness is an act of love, it demonstrates love for each other and to God. Forgiveness is obedient and it clears our conscience. When we forgive others we clean our spirit of the sins that harboring anger, resentment, and pain introduces to the way we live.
Forgiving others is not for them, it is for you.
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Does it matter whose at fault when you are offended?
It does matter whose at fault when you are offended. The reason it matters is because you need to be able to heal from the harm the offense inflicted on you. Take time to understand the offender, their intent, and your perceptions. After evaluating what happened, forgive the offender and return to a place of only love for that person. Avoid them if you have to, but want good to happen in their lives. This releases you from guilt and God will notice.