WE cannot avoid them. We either commit them ourselves or we receive them. We are both their doers and victims. And so we ought to know how to handle them, offenses, that is.
When we commit them, for whatever reason, including those offenses that may have been done unintentionally, we should be quick to ask for forgiveness and to do whatever repair, atonement and restitution is needed.
It’s the most human and Christian way to go about them. It shows refinement of heart and acts quickly to resolve conflicts quickly and effectively. It defuses tension and facilitates reconciliation.
Obviously, we should try our best to avoid committing these offenses, no matter how slight they are. This should be an ongoing concern that can be effectively attended to if we continue to grow in our sensitivity towards others.
The best defence, as they say, is offence, but offence in the good sense of always doing good to the others. If it’s already second nature to us to be generous in our good acts of service towards others, then we actually minimize the possibility of offending them.
It’s when we suffer offenses that we need to learn how to react. Our human condition is such that we are most vulnerable to respond to offenses not only with anger, which is understandable as a spontaneous reaction, but also with hatred, bitterness, resentment and a burning urge for revenge that stay with us for long.
We have to be ready for this eventuality which is actually very common, especially nowadays when people are quick to anger and slow to forgive, which is precisely the opposite of how God is with us.
We need to look at offenses, when inflicted upon us, from a theological point of view, with faith purifying and enriching our reason and emotions. We have to be clear about not allowing reason and emotions alone to handle the experience of being offended.
Our faith tells us that we have to learn to forgive offenses. Christ tells us that “whoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Mt 5,21) When offended, we have to try not to get upset, or to let anger overcome our heart.
This obviously requires struggle and training. That’s why it always pays to be meek and humble, for these virtues make forgiving easy to do. When we find it hard to do, we have to kneel down and pray, and beg Christ to give us the grace to forgive.
We have to remove the obstacles to forgiveness that likely are embedded in our heart. These usually are pride, over-sensitiveness, inordinate attachment to our views and preferences, etc. Obviously, meditating on the example of the mercy of Christ as he hung on the cross would be most illuminating.
What can help us is to realize that offenses and injuries, even if those who inflict them on us may be sinning, can do us a lot of good, since these can serve to purify us, and purification is what we need a lot of, no matter how good and clean we think we already are. We should not forget that offenses also possess some good effects in us.
We also need to realize that if we pardon the offenses of others, God will also pardon ours, in accord to what Christ himself has said: “If you will forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses.” (Mt 6,14) How beautiful it is then to be able to forgive quickly and from the heart.
Let’s also remember that by wilfully keeping hatred, resentment and bitterness against those who offend us is a sin that separates us from God. Christ himself said so. “If you offer your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come to offer your gift.” (Mt 5,23-24)
Hatred, resentment and bitterness, no matter how reasonable and fair they may seem to be, have no other effect than to harm us by poisoning our heart and mind. They alienate us from Christ who loved to the point of assuming our sin on the cross.
In this current hue and cry that we have because of this massive and seemingly systemic national rip-off of the pork barrel scandal, we should see to it that we avoid hatred, resentment and bitterness even as we seek justice.
As St. Paul said: “Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger.” (Eph 4,26)