I was talking to a good friend on the topic of validation and offence this week. He shared about a recent sly and undermining remark from an acquaintance that was directed at him. Ouch! It shook him a little and he spent the next few hours praying and thinking about it. The question he asked in reflection was ‘Why did it matter so much? I know the guy has a critical nature but it still left me wondering how to respond.’

I’m sure you’ve been there. Mr Cynical or Miss Critical make a passing remark and it knocks you and rocks you. They seem to know the right buttons to press too. It’s like an evil gift they possess (or possesses them).

Around 12 months ago I was in the middle of a heated discussion with my wife. I took offence to something and flew straight into defence mode. I felt God whisper to me, ‘Why are you trying to justify yourself Dave?’ I stopped mid-sentence and said to my wife, “You’re very right, I’m sorry.”   My response had shocked myself. The moment I took on board what was being said (with sincerity), the argument stopped and I was now left with the truth of the offence… and that hurt.

Now I had a truth to deal with. A deficit to explore. Repenting to do.  Thank you!

When personal offence comes and we fly into defence mode, what are we defending? I’d say, in most cases, it is Ego. Self. The Flesh. An idol we’ve built. A persona to defend. An unhealthy attachment to a gift, talent, skill, relationship or attachment to something we feel we must defend and uphold.  We may be very aware of a deficit/weakness in an area of our life and that threatens us, so we hide, mask and defend the deficit. It can be extremely tiring and destructive constantly living with a fear that someone will have-a-go at something we’ve done, trying to do or we’ve made part of our identity. Often we build defences in the pre-verbal (0-7) years of our lives and they can affect so much of how we live and react to these moments. These early defences are so sneaky and destructive it’s disturbing. But there is hope!

So if you are prepared to walk through this, you have to ask yourself the question my friend did. Why does that hurt so much? In other words, what are the triggers?

I would contest that only God knows the heart of man. The bible is clear on this.  We are deceived by our own hearts. But if we allow God to reveal it to us, it is presented to us in love and in the context of healing and redemption.

I’ve been working through this for about a year now and I’ve found an approach to offence that I think you might find valuable.

Step 1. Within reason, if someone presses the right buttons, decide not to defend yourself the next time you’re threatened, blamed or offended. Agree with your accuser swiftly if need be. Apologise. Hear them out. Actually take the offence because your going to need it for the next step. The reality is, you may have genuinely let them down and stuffed up! Have some guts to say sorry and wear the consequences. Perhaps the other person says or implies something that triggers you into action and you’re really not even sure why but it hurts and you feel you must defend something or someone.   Again, wear it on the chin and now that you will be addressing it yourself in the next step.

Step 2. Take this offence and hurt and let it drive you into prayer and communion with God. The prayer may look like this: “Lord if this is true, if there is something in me drawing this from them (a bitter root judgement) then please reveal it to me and cut it off and out of my life. I don’t want attachment to these things, it’s in your presence and in my heavenly citizenship that I want to find my identity and affirmation.”

It’s our desire for wholeness and a real heart-to-heart relationship with God that will bring about true heart change. After you pray a prayer like that just sit with it a while. Wait on God, His voice and Word that discerns the heart and can bring about healing and change. Sometimes these things can take days, weeks and months to journey through because the walls, woundings and structures we’ve built are big. Sometimes though, it takes a moment or a simple truth that God speaks to your heart and spirit and everything is changed in a moment.

If the issue is big and you get stuck, find a trained and knowledgeable prayer minister to walk with you through prayer. But know this, that God desperately wants to be the one you turn to in these times as he’s a jealous God, full of loving kindness, mercy and love for you.

After some time, you might be grateful when offence comes, because it gets you off the fence and drives you into the arms of God who wants to reveal himself to you and in you.