Friendship and Offenses

During casual conversation, my wife brought up a truth that captured my interest. We were discussing the sad and wide scale reality of failed relationships and the role of offenses in today’s world. Jesus warned us that offenses would escalate in the last days, and so they have! Luke 24:10 simply says, “And many will be offended.” 

Why do people, both inside and outside the church, leave behind a trail of broken relationships as they navigate life? Many, who were once close friends, find themselves at odds with one another. Their relationship was once characterized by laughter, love, acceptance, and smiles–filled with special moments. Now, they seldom, if ever, speak. They ignore one another when passing on the street or meeting in the aisle at Walmart. Former confidential talks become fodder for gossip and unkind words. 

I feel we have overlooked a missing, life-sustaining ingredient in terms of friendship development. Here’s what I mean. The more we get to know someone and the closer we get, the more opportunities there are for offenses to develop. Closeness leads to vulnerability. Innermost secrets are often revealed. The enemy of our soul knows how to convolute what began in friendship and innocence.

Healthy relationships must always take into consideration the strong possibility that offenses may occur. Relationships, if they are to possess sustainability, must become “offense-proof.” Otherwise, offenses will come, and the resulting fallout may end a beautiful thing. Let’s face it, the giving and receiving of offenses is a sure thing.  And when they come–not if–how will true friends navigate these troubled waters? How will friendships remain intact? 

I remember a married woman telling me many years ago, “My husband and I have never even had a disagreement,” I asked her, “So, which one of you was not breathing?” Conflict resolution must become a built-in feature of every relationship. Those times when misunderstandings occur and feelings get hurt, must have escape clauses. The necessity to forgive must be always available. I’ve told married couples for years, “Marriage is the union of two forgivers.” 

The closer we get to someone, the more we learn about them–positive and negative — and the more chances there are for misunderstandings that lead to hurt feelings. Human interaction guarantees potential offenses! Both men and women are susceptible to relationship fallout. It happens! Don’t be misled! Failed human interaction is the result of the fall of mankind into sin. Our relationship with God was shattered by sin, and all other areas became affected by sin as well. 

Conflict equals two and until we understand the high probability of offenses happening, we will continue to fall prey to relationship failures. I have pastored six churches over five decades and I have watched as offenses divided, even torn asunder, churches, families, and friendships of all kinds. Offenses have destroyed precious relationships and over this, I weep. Believe me, I do not write in a judgmental tone. I too have given and received offenses. Like you, I stand in need of prayer.

Did you know that receiving an offense is a choice? Giving an offense is also a choice and a sad reality, and most unfortunate. Often, we fail to think before we speak. We don’t weigh our words. Words are forces that either kill or heal. We, on occasion, allow anger to drive unkind or retaliatory remarks that cut like a knife. Sometimes broken areas embedded deeply within our soul invite “triggers” to determine our words and behavior. Like me, perhaps you have allowed the wounds of your past to create a victim mentality in your thinking. Past offenses and emotional pain are justified instead of healed. 

One thing we offer to church newcomers is a personality test, developed by author-psychologist, Dr. Tim LaHaye in 1976. In his personality profile, LaHaye presents four personality types – choleric, sanguine, melancholy, and phlegmatic.  What we discovered is that each personality type reacts to offense and other life issues in predictable ways. If not surrendered to the Spirit’s watchful control, each personality brings offenses to others–either knowingly or unknowingly. For this reason and more, many of our leadership positions are filled after we weigh personality types.

LaHaye’s premise is that if we understand why people act like they do, perhaps offenses can be better avoided. For example, my wife and I have learned to know and understand one another better based on our personality type. This knowledge does not excuse behavior; it explains it, and gives the Holy Spirit opportunities to bring understanding, healing, and unconditional love.

Oh, how we need to tenaciously hold on to the healthy relationships we have. How we need to “offense proof” and guard the wonderful people God has entrusted to our love and care.  

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