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Overcoming Offenses in Friendship

God wired women for relationships. We genuinely value friendships and cultivate tight bonds. So much so, that we can be deeply wounded by our female friendships. These wounds could be intentional or unintentional, but if we are to radiate Christ in our relationships then we must learn how to respond in grace and truth when we’ve been hurt. It’s my joy to welcome Michelle Price to the Redeemed Girl Blog today. As a member of our staff team, Michelle has a passion for women to experience wholeness in Christ and to walk in freedom. I know her wisdom on this topic will bless you. – Marian Jordan Ellis

I watched my daughter sitting across the playground with her arms crossed and a pout on her face. I wondered what happened to cause such a reaction in my normally joyful girl. I walked over to the bench she sat upon and peppered her with questions.

Why are you sitting alone?  

Where are your friends?

Did someone say something hurtful?

I waited for her to answer. I saw the wheels spinning in her head and then she began to reluctantly answer, “None of my friends want to play with me. They don’t even care that I am upset.”

I could read the negative thoughts developing in her head. Accusations that screamed

I am not good enough.

No one likes me

Something must be wrong with me.

I tried to encourage her, and yet I can’t help but see my own struggles in my precious nine-year-old daughter. As a grown woman, I can also struggle with miscommunications and perceived slights that fester into offenses. I wish I could say that this was years ago, but I experienced a situation like this recently with a friend.

I heard about a party my friend was hosting and assumed I was not invited because I never received an invitation. I felt incredibly hurt and thought she didn’t want me to be there. After having a conversation, I realized she had accidentally misspelled my email address. Sadly, I had felt hurt for weeks and made the worst assumptions, but it was a simple typing error.

One little letter lead to an offended heart and wounded relationship.

Offenses are powerful.

What are offenses? Offenses are hurts that can be unintentional; like accidentally being left off a guest list for a party or when someone says something they don’t realize is hurtful. Or, offenses can also be deliberate hurts such as when someone says something unkind about us or purposely invites everyone in our friend group and intentionally excludes us.

I want to look at the two types of offenses in friendships and how to address them.

Here are two definitions of offenses:

1) annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles

2) the action of attacking someone or something

A woman’s life can carry a long list of offenses. From middle school bullies to modern day mean girls, we all have wounds. Some of our wounds were intentional, but all too often, many were not. Let’s examine both kinds and see how God would have us respond.

UNINTENTIONAL OFFENSES

By the very definition, the first type is a perceived insult or an unintentional slight. This type of offense is when we don’t give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We assume they meant more by a tone of voice or a statement. Our thoughts can often spin into lies about ourselves and others. Lies such as “they must not like me, don’t want me around, or they are rude.” This version of offense is based on accusations we are believing. There are many situations when we can choose not to be offended. We can believe the best about the other person and ourselves.

To believe the best instead of taking up an offense means:

  • Give the person the benefit of the doubt that it may not have been intentional.
  • Don’t assume the slight was personally intended towards you. Sometimes we “project onto” circumstances our own insecurities.
  • Ask the Lord to help you see the situation from their perspective. Perhaps they were having an off day or going through something you’re unaware of.

Essentially, to believe the best means we extend the same grace towards others that we would want for ourselves. We all have bad days, we all forget details, and we all are juggling a zillion plates. Let’s be women who are confident enough to know it’s not always about us. Unintentional offenses offer an opportunity for us to believe the best in ourselves and our friends. Proverbs says it much better than I do.

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. -Proverbs 19:11

One of the best scriptures to help us when we are struggling with offenses is 2 Corinthians 10:5 which says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This scripture encourages us to not allow lies or accusations to spin in our head but instead we are to “take every thought captive.” Beware of the rabbit trail where one negative thought leads to another. Girls, you know we all do it!

For example, a rabbit trail of offense can sound like:

“Susie didn’t invite you to the party.

I must not be likable.

I’m unlikable, so no one wants to hang out with me.

I am destined to be alone

Something is wrong with me.”

Taking “every thought captive” means that I will not entertain the lies. The scripture goes so far as to say to make those thoughts “obedient to Christ.” This scripture is an encouragement for us to believe who Christ says we are! Whether the offense was intentional or unintentional, we should not allow the actions, insults, slights, or rudeness of others to determine our identity or worth. When our thoughts turn negative and we begin to agree with the voice of self-hatred, then we must stop and “take captive” that thought pattern. This is where we speak truth to ourselves in the midst of the potential offense. Instead of harboring anger or bitterness, choose to say, “I know who I am in Christ and I know I am loved.” We must remember there is an enemy at play in each of these scenarios who loves to divide relationships and heap shame and condemnation upon us at any given moment.

INTENTIONAL OFFENSES

Now that we’ve seen the danger of harboring unintentional offenses and how easily our thoughts can lead us to crazy places, let’s examine the other type of offense. The second type of offense is an intentional one. It is an action or behavior purposely done to hurt us. Scripture is clear about what to do in this case.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” -Matthew 18:15-17

What does this mean in a practical sense? It means that you should not allow these thoughts to fester or grow. We don’t gossip and go to other friends to talk about it. Instead, it says to go to directly to the one who hurt you and honestly speak to them about your hurt. The hope is restoration and unity.

While speaking directly is not easy, it is the best solution. My best friend and I have had several of these difficult conversations and we are the closest of friends. I can trust that she will talk to me directly and she can believe that about me also. If someone chooses not to reconcile, you have done your part. There are situations that God is saving you from future hurt and allowing you to see the heart of the person who offended you. Pray for that person, love them from a distance, and let it go. You can keep your heart pure by loving her and not growing bitter.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. -Proverbs 10:12

Thankfully, most offenses are not of the intentional kind with our true friends. Most can be solved with clearing up miscommunications and expressing our hurts. A friend who loves you and wants the best for you will want to make things right. This was the situation I shared about my daughter. The playground conversation ended well, her sweet friends did care, there was not an intentional hurt. Quick apologies were shared and they were off on the swings the best of friends playing again.

Dealing with offenses in friendships is not easy, but it is worth it. Most of us have grieved the loss of a friendship when it could have been restored or repaired if we had handled our offenses differently. Understanding how to navigate offenses is part of the nature of relationships. God wired women for relationships, to desire connection and communication with one another. Therefore, we will have conflicts from time to time but let’s become redeemed girls who respond Biblically and Christ-like to those conflicts.

Michelle Price

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