The Consequences of Taking Offence
The Opportunity to Take Offence
Most of us will have days when we will have the opportunity to take offence. I want you to know that when that opportunity comes to take offense the choice is yours. If you are smart you will not take offence no matter how justifiable it is for you to do that.
If you take offence then you will take in a lot of other stuff besides. Make no mistake most of the other that will come in with it is stuff that is toxic it is poison. Even worse it won’t affect the person who offended you it will only affect you.
To illustrate how you becoming offended hurts you I want to share with you a small incident. When this incident happened I got my feelings hurt and became offended. This small silly incident messed me up for nearly twenty years.
This is not something that I am proud of, in fact I know how stupid I have been. It was stupid and self destructive to allow the feelings of offence to have such a powerful effect on me. It was especially stupid because it was over something so trivial.
Once I let the offense in then I fed it almost daily so that its influence in me grew stronger. I want to tell you this because I don’t want you to be the same kind of fool I was. Nor do I want you to suffer and inflict the same kind of damage to yourselves. I especially do not want you to hold on to an offense for over twenty years.
The incident over which I took offence happened when I was about 13 or 14 years old while I was at school. I wasn’t going to tell you what this incident was because it was so trivial. Also it will make me look real stupid if I tell you about it.
But I changed my mind because it is more important to me that you know that the incident was not the problem. The problem was the way I reacted to the incident.
My hope is by telling you how stupid and trivial this incident was, and what my reaction to it was, you will see this.
Please don’t form your opinions on how moronic I am until you have read the whole story. I tell you this because you might have to eat your own words at some point. So remember the sweeter our words are about others the easier they are to swallow later when they come back to us.
There was a bank of lockers in our form room (do you Americans call it a homeroom?) each one had a label to identify whose locker it was. Someone had scrawled on each label the word ‘STALE’ in capital letters. Stale was the nickname of one of the boys in our class at that time. I know, I told you it was stupid and trivial.
Well we were unaware of this when the teacher gave us all a piece of paper. He told us to write in capital letters the word stale and our names.
We all did this and then he collected in all the pieces of paper. The teacher then looked at all the pieces of paper. To my surprise and horror he decided that it was my handwriting. He said my hand writing looked like that scrawled on the lockers. Based on that he decided that I was the one responsible for the scrawling of Stale on the lockers.
The punishment he gave me was not particularly grievous. I had in fact experienced far worse punishments in the past, which I had unfortunately I deserved. But the punishment was not the problem. My problem was in the fact that this time I didn’t deserve it.
My punishment was only very minor; all I had to do was write out a hundred times ‘I must not write on school lockers. ‘I had endured rightful punishment before this incident without any problems. I had been given the strap, the cane, lines, detention and sent out of the class.
All these punishments, were as far as I was concerned at the time, par for the course. If you did something wrong and they caught you then you got what you deserved, and it was soon over and forgotten.
But, because I had not done what they said this time, I burned with a sense shame and of injustice. I had a righteous indignation burning in me. I went to this teacher and told him that I hadn’t done it.
His reply to my protests of innocence crushed me beyond words. He said that he only had my word for that, and he didn’t believe me. He wouldn’t listen to anything more that I had to say on this subject, he said nothing I could say would change his mind.
His words stung me and hurt my pride. It hurt because he doubted my integrity would not accept my word. He had judged me and found guilty.
I went to my form (class) teacher and told her what had happened. I was hoping to find a champion for my cause. She said although she wanted to believe me like the other teacher she had only my word that I hadn’t done it. But the other teacher had evidence that I did, so she could do nothing about it.
This was an insult added to my injury. These two teachers had been my favourite teachers up till this incident. So their word inflicted a pain that felt a hundred times worse. I had liked both teachers very much and up to that point I respected them both.
They were both excellent teachers. So because I liked and respected them it made their treatment of me and their opinion of me all the more damaging.
Here Come the Consequences - Shame, Humiliation, Rage, Anger, a Sense of Injustice and Betrayal
I was also very angry with my classmates, because one of them had written on these lockers.
While the teacher had stood there accusing me in front of the whole class they had kept silent. They let me take the blame. That was something that I would never do, let someone else to take the blame for something that I did. What’s more I couldn’t understand how they could sit there and allow me to take all the blame. How could they live with themselves afterwards?
I know I know I told you that it was only a silly minor incident. But the affect that this incident had on me, was out of all proportion to what had happened. Also the affect of that incident went on for years.
I came to hate the teacher that had accused me, with a red-hot hatred. Each time I saw this teacher this incident it would trigger all the negative feelings I felt when he judged me. Feelings of shame, humiliation, rage, anger, injustice and betrayal flooded over me.
These feelings physically affected me. I would become very hot and flushed, my heart would beat like a trip hammer, my stomach would churn. I could barely bring myself to look him in the eye or speak to him.
I would dream of a thousand different ways to inflict every sort of pain and humiliation on this teacher. I would daydream and fantasise his death at my hands.
Sometimes it would be at the hands of someone else, but always ultimately I would have the power to save him. I would be the one who held his fate in my hands. In my fantasies he would plead and beg for me to believe him.
Of course, beg as he would for me to believe him and save him, I never would. I would instead give him back his own words, I would say to him like he did to me, ‘I only have your word for that’.
This day dreaming and obsession with the hatred I felt for this man did not end when I left school. I carried this hatred with me until after I had children.
It was more than twenty years after the incident, before I got free from the hatred I had for this man. A hatred that was often the last thing that I thought about before I went to sleep at night. And often the first thing I thought about in the morning.
It ate at me like a cancer, and the more I entertained the hatred the more it grew, and the more its hold on me grew. I can almost hear you saying to yourself, how stupid can this woman be and still be able to breathe? How stupid is she to let this small thing have such an effect? Well, however much stupidity it takes, I had it and then some to spare.
The hatred and all the other feelings that went along with it were as powerful twenty years later. If anything the feelings had grown, not diminished.
If my mind touched this incident, I could still feel the burning shame and humiliation. It was as though it had just happened. It was amazing how all sorts of things would trigger the memory of this incident. Once triggered all the feelings that went with it would flood over me.
Who Pays the Consequences?
When God dealt with me about my hatred of this man, I finally gained my freedom. It was not this man that my hatred had imprisoned for more than twenty years, it was me. It was not this man that my hatred and fantasies had damaged, it was me. No doubt the day after the incident, that man had forgotten all about it. He had probably not given it another thought in all those twenty odd years.
I, instead, had lived with it almost daily and in the process I had been well and truly bent out of shape by it. Any wonder God doesn’t want us to treat people unjustly and unfairly. Is it any wonder that God wants us not to jump to conclusions about things. Or why He doesn’t want us to go around making all sorts of assumptions about people? This teacher came to a wrong conclusion based on a wrong assumption and I let it screw my life up for a very long time.
Because of these feelings that I allowed to take over and dominate my life I shut many good things out of my life. I had imprisoned myself and shut myself in with all these bad feelings that I had.
How did I get my freedom? The same way I could have done the moment it happened, I forgave the man I hated. I also prayed for him. I asked God to bless him. How did I manage to do that feeling the way I did? I didn’t, I couldn’t, but yet it happened. It happened after I had an encounter with the living God
During that encounter I saw my life and myself as I really was. I experienced the unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness of God. When the amazing grace of God touched me in this way it transformed me and my feelings about others.
When I did forgive this man it was like a ten ton weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could at last sleep at night, without the dreams of what I would like to do to him.
In conclusion don’t get caught in this trap like I did, if you are already caught get out by forgiving the person who offended you regardless of what they have done. Why should I? you may be asking, do it because it is in your own best interest. Given the opportunity to take offence do yourself a favour don’t take it.