“An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.” (Proverbs 18:19 NLT)
It’s very difficult to win the favour and affection of a person who is offended, even if he is a Christian. Ask persons who have been offended if they will ever forgive and reconcile with the people who have hurt them, and most likely you’ll hear a resounding “no.” Offences drive wedges into relationships and cause divisions. Why is it like this? What happens in an offence?
The first thing that gets broken whenever there’s an offence is trust. All of us have a certain level of trust given to our different friends. The closer and more important the relationship, the deeper and bigger the level of trust given. It simply follows that when the offender is a trusted and very close person to the offended person, the level of pain is higher.
Second, when a person gets offended, that individual often asks, “Why did this happen to me?”
Because of this, many who are offended get bitter and lose their trust in others. In some cases, the offended see themselves less than what they really are, because “somebody had the nerve to hurt them.” From this point on, there are at least two responses: distrust of others and an overwhelming desire to protect or hate oneself, both of which are cynical.
Fear of relationships
Here is what happens next: The offended persons erect defences to protect themselves. Some become “hermits,” keeping to themselves for fear that they will be hurt once more. Others remain vengeful, waiting for the offender to fall down and be humiliated. Others seem to move on with life, but remain guarded – when a new friend comes too close, they start putting distance. These suspicious people often live life “wounded and bleeding,” even though they don’t admit it.
How to win an offended brother
Winning an offended brother is a very difficult task, but it’s worth all the effort if the person goes away from the Lord. It matters to God that we give efforts to restoring a brother who fell either by sin or by another’s offence. (see Galatians 6:1-5; 1 Peter 4:8)
First, you need to pray for the person. Keep praying until God softens the heart of that person who may eventually open up.
Second, you need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Offended people need to admit their hurts, and release them. Satan loves to put footholds in a person’s life, and these often come in the form of hurts that are not brought into the light and addressed. Do your best to let offended persons open themselves up.
Third, offer them brotherly love. If you’re the one who hurt them, ask for their forgiveness. If someone else hurt them, help them release their forgiveness. Forgiveness has to be released: It’s like the drawbridge of a medieval castle – unless the bridge is let down, no one can come in or go out. There’s no freedom in not forgiving.