Never underestimate your ability to offend.
People are easily offended and sometimes we can be easily offensive. You put those two things together and you’ve got trouble.
The writer of Proverbs put it this way, “It would be easier for you to break into a fortified city than to regain the trust and loyalty of someone you have offended.” (Proverbs 18:19)
I know, I know, some of you might be thinking, “But speaking the truth will offend people. The gospel is offensive: I Corinthians 1:23 and Galatians 5:11. Besides Jesus offended people: Matthew 13:57 and Mark 6:3.”
That’s not the type of offense I’m talking about.
I’m referring to offense that is not necessary, offense that could be avoided. There is an offense that comes because we’ve said or done something stupid or insensitive. Why would I want to offend someone if I didn’t need to? If I need to I need to but If I don’t why would I want to? Four times I am told to avoid offending or placing a stumbling block before someone: I Corinthians 8:9 and 10:32, II Corinthians 6:3 and Romans 14:13.
I remember listening to a pastor at a conference say, “The only way not to offend people is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” The people around me burst into applause and cheers but I could not help but think that some had interpreted this as permission to offend.
Some pastors offend because they have been offended and this is their way of striking back. I wish Paul hadn’t said not to return evil for evil, but he did. (Romans 12:17)
Despite our greatest efforts, offense will still happen. However, how might I limit the times I offend others?
Ask yourself these four offense-limiting questions:
1. How might my words or actions offend this person?
2. Do I care if I offend them?
3. Should I care if I offend them?
4. Can I achieve my objective in a way that might be less likely to offend?
A good rule to live by: If you have to ask yourself if what you’re about to say or do will be offensive…it will probably be offensive.
What should I do if I have discovered that I have offended someone?
1. Resist the temptation to become defensive and justify your actions.
2. In prayer and quiet reflection ask the Father to show you how you contributed to the offense.
3. Apologize without any explanations or qualifiers. Examples of poor apologies:
“I’m sorry that you were offended but…”
“I apologize but…”
A good rule to live by in regards to apologizing: If you use the word ‘but’ you’ll come off as a ‘butt.’ What’s an example of a good apology?
“I’m sorry that I…” PERIOD! Stop right there! Don’t say another word!
You might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, but it wasn’t all my fault. They needed to hear this.” You might be right. But you will probably have an opportunity to revisit whatever it is you think they need to hear. Do your best to clear the air and approach the matter another day in another way.
A good rule to remember: An offended person will not objectively listen to anything you have to say to them until after, and maybe not even then, the offense has been cleared up.
(Excerpt from Never Underestimate by Dave Jacobs)