A distrusting heart, a miscommunication — these are things to which we can chalk up so many of our “offended” moments. Most of the time, people we love are not out to hurt us. (More on this idea in yesterday’s post — check it out here.) But… what about the times when they are?
I’m coming to the blog this morning with scars & stories, and I bet you are, too. You may even have fresh cuts from a pain that hasn’t healed yet. We all bear witness to some ugly moments, because life is messy. Relationships are bundles of joy & pain that we won’t ever be able to untangle. Even the most life-giving people we know will leave us with bumps & bruises along the way. That’s just what happens when imperfect hearts collide. And I used to be okay with that, strolling through life knowing that people would accidentally hurt me at times.
The problem came when I stumbled into some wounds that were very much on purpose. To have people that I loved deeply inflict hurt of the same depth made me confused. Wounded. Withdrawn. And certain that bitterness was allowed in times as painful as those. Maybe even expected, encouraged.
It wasn’t. With each passing week, I was less proud of the contents of my heart. The bitterness had captured my thoughts and stolen my joy. I thought that using sour thoughts to build a wall around my heart was the safest way to keep offenders from getting close to it again. And then I sat inside that wall, lonelier than ever. Really, the only person isolated was me.
In that pain, I learned a truth that profoundly changed things: We will never be able to control someone’s choice to be offensive. But we can always choose whether or not to be offended.
I’m not saying to ignore your hurts. Please hear me, friend: when your heart is hurting, take steps to heal, to restore, to bind up what’s broken. Most likely, the offender in your story didn’t take that advice. Instead, they bled until their whole heart was infected with the pain, & it spilled out onto you. The timeless “hurt people hurt people” adage has stuck around for so long because it’s fundamentally true. But you & I can stop the pattern. Storing up bitterness will eventually cause you to become the very person you are so hurt by today. So when they extend hurt, extend love back.
To love in the face of misunderstanding is hard. To love in the face of intentional hurt seems almost impossible. Remember, another person’s actions are indicative of their heart — your response is indicative of your own. When someone chooses to inflict pain, that’s a window into their heart. When I choose to cultivate bitterness over that pain, it’s a window into mine.
If you looked into the window of my heart, I hope you’d find grace extended into every circumstance, love that doesn’t even make sense, kindness & forgiveness rooted so deeply in me that bitterness can’t find a place to settle in. The bottom line: it’s a choice. I choose not to be offended. And you can, too.