How to Purposefully Repsond to Accidental Offenses

What is the appropriate response to accidental offenses? 

I ask myself this question after reading reactions to the song “Accidental Racist” by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J.

I do not wish to overlook or diminish the conversation about whether racism is accidental or whether this song trivializes a serious offense.  Is “Accidental Racist” a contradiction in terms?  Is the song itself actually racist?  Those questions have been well addressed by voices more qualified than mine.

Instead, I’d like to consider accidental offenses in general.

For example, as a female caucasian I have not experienced accidental racism, but I sometimes feel (accidentally?) overlooked and undervalued as a woman.  It is offensive.

What should I do with that?

The song’s premise (no matter what you think about its application to racism) is that no one fully understands how life looks through another person’s eyes.  That is, in fact, true.

Therefore, we all accidentally offend each other.  Often.

Christians have an opportunity to promote unity and healing by learning (1) how to avoid accidentally offending others and (2) how to appropriately respond to unintended offenses against us.

  1. We are all accidental offenders.  Therefore…

    1. To avoid offending others, recognize the limits of our own perspectives.
    2. Furthermore, expand our sensitivities by seeking out, reading about, and interacting with people unlike ourselves to help us understand a wider range of thought and experience.
  2. We are all, at times, accidentally offended.  Therefore…

    1. Check ourselves:  Am I overly sensitive on this point?  Do I have a “plank” in my own eye that needs attention before I respond to an offense?
    2. Directly confront the situation.  Jesus advised this when “a brother sins against you.”   Is an “accidental offense” a sin?  Even if it is not, perhaps there is value in a respectful conversation to help the offending party expand his or her understanding (see #1.)
    3. Jesus was not afraid of a confrontation, but usually on behalf the weak and vulnerableHe did not defend himself.
    4. Overlook the offense.   The New Testament clearly teaches that we are to bear with each other, forgive offenses, and cover over differences with love.   In humility, having been graciously forgiven by the Lord for innumerable accidental and not-so-accidental offenses against Him, we must be willing to do the same for others.

A purposeful response to accidental offenses requires 

humility to recognize our own offenses

courage to confront,

willingness to overlook an offense in the interest of peace and unity,

and the wisdom to discern which response applies in a given situation. 

Always with purposeful grace.

Have you been accidentally offended?   When do you confront and when do you overlook an offense?

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other, and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14

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21 Responses to How to Purposefully Repsond to Accidental Offenses

  1. Jeannie says:

    Hi Judy, I saw a comment you’d made on Tim Fall’s blog and thought I’d check out yours. The title of this post jumped out at me because it relates to a personal situation I’m in right now. I found your advice in this post very wise and helpful. Discernment, grace, humility, and most of all, love. Thank you for this; again, it really helped.

  2. GodGirl says:

    Well said Judy! I like that expression ‘purposeful grace’, which reminds me that showing grace to others doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Often forgiveness is a choice. And true, sometimes we can be too sensitive to the faults of others, especially if we don’t happen to struggle much with ‘blurting out’ things that might offend. (I think the more you talk, the more chance of offending. But I think I’d rather talk and allow others to get to know me, than to live in fear of offending. But that’s a bit of a tangent!)

  3. optimisticgladness says:

    This was a timely message for me. I tend to tell the truth, to a fault. I may even hurt someone in the process. I am learning when to speak the truth and when to keep the truth to myself-if it is not going to help the situation. That’s a hard lesson for me. I’m so glad I read your post.

  4. Judy, your radiant smile shines through your word’s wisdom! I always think one thought early in the morning as I begin to pray, Lord thank you for your love, grace and forgiveness for one as imperfect as myself…please always lead me to emulate the love you share with all whom I will meet this new day! if God forgives us, so it should become easy to forgive another just by looking into our own imperfect hearts first. Your post is so very wonderful and your message truly divine! Thanks for visiting my blog dear sister and thanks for the spiritual hugs and the blessing of your genuine words! Blessings and love always!

    • Judy says:

      What an excellent thought for the beginning of each day! Thank you for stopping by and for your kind and encouraging words. Blessings back to you, Wendell!

  5. branchl77 says:

    I am daily on my knees asking for forgivness and repenting because our Father extends grace and mercy to me. The priest of the old testament had to wear linen under garments because the stench of human effort offends Him. Accidental offense is what sons and daughters of Adam do. Recieve and extend forgiveness is what the Children of God do. Excellent and timely post sis.

  6. Wonderful, wonderful post! My mother says that people are hardest on others when they are hardest on themselves. A lot of truth there. I have been talking with Graeme (MyBroom) and am finding new faith by thinking that Christians, by faith, can so REST in, be one being with Christ, and be so sure of God’s love and approval, no matter what….that there is no need to push and strive within ourselves. Which is grace then more easily extended to others. Oh YES, I’ve been offended, and even sabotaged at work for being female, older, and not from a farm! Really. I still haven’t figured out how I could have better handled that. But under 2.B. I believe it is important to have healthy “boundaries” in psyche speak, and that kindly,lightly and respectfully letting someone know how their approach affects you, then happily moving on in friendship, is a good thing for both.

    • Judy says:

      Hello Diane! I guess we all struggle to really rest and trust, don’t we? Personally, I’d rather be in control:). As I write this I’m reminded of Peter (I think) who said that Jesus did not justify himself but “he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1Peter 2:23 – should have included that one in the post!). It is a challenge to do that! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, and say Hi to Graeme for me:)

  7. Debbie says:

    This is so good, Judy! You always know what we need to pray about. I feel horrible when I accidentally offend. . .and I’m sure I do it more than I even know. So I tend to apologize a lot. It’s that or hide from everyone, and that’s probably not what God intends for me. 🙂 Thank you and God bless you!

    • Judy says:

      Thanks Debbie – it sounds like you have a very sensitive heart, which is probably an indication that you accidentally offend less than you might think. May we always act in purposeful grace! Blessings!

  8. Judy, I think your post responded wonderfully. I agree, I believe it’s more about remembering and being conscientious as to how we treat or view others.

  9. Larry Who says:

    I have sort of a bull in the China shop approach with most folks, or so my wife says. So, if you’re easily offended, I’ll probably find a way to offend you without even trying. But usually, I get along with everyone, even though I stumble around, knocking their teacups and attitudes on the floor. Hopefully, we will eventually arrive at a level of love where we accept people where they are and pray their/our hearts will be changed to line up with Jesus.

    P.S. I’d notice you.

  10. jaels says:

    Joseph Prince, one of my 2 fave Bible teachers/pastors, was addressing the sliver/plank issue lately combined with an illustration of the tabernacle’s architecture. We–believers–are “boards” covered in gold (the righteousness of Christ); so he suggested that when we are viewing the problem with our neighbor, we see them the way God does–covered in gold. I think this fits in with what you’re saying? He also believes that much of our tendency to criticize/judge is because we usually see ourselves as “just blocks of wood”, rather than “gold-covered”–so we view others through the lens of self-judgment.

    This is a great post–there’s plenty of accidental offense in the air, and it’s a blessing when we can get it cleared up quickly and gracefully. Sadly, sometimes we cannot. I continue to work on/pray about my tendency to be oversensitive/”prickly”–I’m making good progress, praise God! May He bless your week abundantly! ~~ Jael-Caddo

    • Judy says:

      What a beautiful way to look at ourselves and others – as gold-covered planks in the body of Christ. Thank you so much for sharing this. And, so nice to know that this is you, Caddo! Did I miss something? I’ve been worried about you since your blog went dark. I’m greatly relieved:) Blessings back to you!

      • jaels says:

        Thank you, sweet sis Judy–it was “just” a valley experience; there will be a coming out party in May–I’ve reserved a seat at the head table for you! God is SO Good.

  11. Naphtali says:

    Judy, excellent post. God has taught me how not to be offended; I use to get offended at the slightest jab. But what freedom now! This is kind of funny but when we moved here in 2007 I had to get use to being asked “Are you Military?” We are in the minority not being in the military here but at least I now know what it feels like to be discriminated against! LOL! We love our military friends here and they deserve the best and a whole lot more than the government is giving them now.

    • Judy says:

      Thanks Cathy. It is kind of eye-opening to be in some kind of minority or marginalized position, isn’t it? Even if it is just not military:) I too am learning the freedom of overlooking offenses. And I heartily agree with your love and support for your military friends. Blessings to you all! Judy

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