“I can’t believe you let your kids eat toaster pastries! They’re all sugar and trans fats!” a friend told me recently. She was over for coffee and couldn’t help peering into my open pantry and seeing the box of toaster pastries.
I could feel my hackles starting to rise. What would motivate someone to make a remark like that?! It would never occur to me to critique what other people have in their kitchen cupboards. Still, I told myself my friend probably meant well. After all, she studied nutrition in college and that was “her thing.” In her own way, she was probably trying to show concern. So I simply smiled, shrugged and replied, “You’re right. They’re not exactly nutritious. But once in a while I buy them for a special treat.”
This response is what I call the “Value-the-Other-Person’s-Perspective” approach. You let the other person know you can see some truth to what she just said. Sure, it would have been easy to take offense at my friend’s words, but why? In the broad scheme of things, does it really matter that my friend doesn’t agree with all of my grocery purchases? Obviously, it doesn’t. If I would have challenged her on what she said, that may have led to an argument. Instead, after my response, my friend smiled back. Then we began to talk about something totally different, and had a pleasant conversation.
I wish I could say I always respond to offensive remarks in this way, but I don’t. Sometimes I let other people’s careless, blunt or insensitive words rub me the wrong way. I feel hurt, upset, insulted, snubbed, slighted or wronged. I’m not able to let the comments just slide.
Chances are, you can relate. From time to time, probably most of us find ourselves offended by something someone said, or perhaps did. You don’t get invited to a party that everyone else you know is going to. Your boss commends your coworker in the company meeting, but doesn’t acknowledge any of your efforts. You don’t receive a thank you card for the birthday gift you gave someone. Your son sits out on the bench the entire baseball game, while the coach’s son and his circle of friends play the whole time. It can be so difficult to overlook these kinds of annoyances.
Yet, we must. The Bible admonishes us to not be oversensitive: “Do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 Also take no heed to all words that are spoken; lest you hear your servant curse you: For oftentimes also your own heart knows that you yourself likewise have cursed others. American King James Version? ).
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We know that part of the fruit of God’s Spirit is love. In 1 Corinthians 13:5 1 Corinthians 13:5 Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;American King James Version? , we’re told that a vital aspect of love is to not be easily provoked or stirred to anger.
Those who really love God’s law and understand His Word will not allow small irritants and annoyances to drive a wedge between others and themselves. They know how easy it is to cause others offense. Proverbs Proverbs He that is void of wisdom despises his neighbor: but a man of understanding holds his peace.American King James Version? says, “He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace.”