Untangling the Knots of Offense

Raise your hand if you remember add-a-bead necklaces. Popular in the 1980s, buyers purchased a chain necklace and created their own pattern with “starter” beads. More beads could be added later.

Last week, I discovered two of my add-a-bead necklaces hanging on a belt rack at the back of my closet. In removing them, they tangled with another necklace into a huge, hopeless-looking knot. I delayed the inevitable untangling process because I remembered the time and effort involved.

Often we collect offenses and wear them like an add-a-bead necklace. The more offenses we accumulation the heavier the burden becomes.

Here are some things to consider about collecting offenses:

Easily entangled

One reason I stopped wearing add-a-bead necklaces is because they tangle so easily. No matter how carefully you take them off and store them, they seem to have a penchant for becoming entangled with other jewelry as well as themselves. Since the beads slide and separate, they intertwine in ways that make the knots complicated and difficult to untangle.

A collection of offenses, and the emotions that go with them, are similar. Once you begin collecting offenses, it seems to predispose you to collecting more. I’m not implying that the ways you have been hurt in your life are not real, but sometimes, when you’ve been deeply offended, you begin to expect and look for reasons others offend you. Soon if becomes a way of life. Comments others may be able to overlook and move beyond without much effort seem magnified to you. You feel slighted and take offense. As your emotions intensify and intertwine, it takes a lot of effort, patience, and willingness to untangle these complicated and painful offense knots and rearrange your thinking to avoid taking everything too personally.

You determine your level of offense

Some add-a-bead chains allowed the owners to slide new beads on themselves. Others required a trip to the jewelry store so a jeweler could take the clasp and the beads off and reconfigure the them on the chain. Often, the inconvenience of having to take the necklace back to the store made the decision for you about whether to add more beads. It was easier not to add more beads. Another factor about adding more beads was the additional weight of the necklace. The more beads you added the heavier the necklace. Some women with elaborate add-a-beads looked like they needed a neck brace to hold up their heads!

Like making the decision to add additional beads to a necklace, it’s up to you to decide if you are going to add more offense incidents to those you’ve accumulated over time. Again, I’m not talking about the pain of losing someone to death, or the trauma of on-going abuse, or the rejection of a failed relationship. I’m referring to choosing to take offense over perceived slights. Think about why you’re offended. Do you struggle with low self-esteem? Or do you have an elevated opinion of yourself? Do some honest self-examination.

Offense is going out of style

In our culture today, so many people are so offended by so many things that most of us are quickly tiring of hearing about all the ways people are offended. Taking offense over perceived slights is quickly becoming passé. Just as add-a-bead necklaces are currently dated and out of style, so is someone who collects offenses, wears them around her neck, and constantly points them out.

If you’ve become that person, it’s time for forward motion. Stop looking for ways people offend you. Continually taking offense is a sign of self-centeredness and immaturity. Hang your necklace of offenses at the back of the closet and start a new trend. Decide to look for the good in people, while at the same time becoming an encourager and affirmer. And practice forgiveness. It will reconfigure your perception and enrich your life.

“Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and—good-bye, friend!” Proverbs 17:9 MSG

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