Ever felt sad and someone said, "Don't feel sad, be happy." Or maybe you were really happy and someone said, "Why do you have to be so happy?" No matter how you feel, there will be someone who will tell you to feel differently. Emotions, however, are uncontrollable. Some might say they are not emotional, but generally they mean they do not express them outwardly. We are emotional creatures, God has created us this way, and our emotions, often, come like a flood.
Jesus had emotions. He celebrated, cried, was sad, and even displayed anger. Emotions are not sinful. Sin occurs when we respond to emotions inappropriately. When a person is offended he/she is feeling something. There is an underlining feeling that has responded to an event or conversation. We often believe that a person or event causes the emotion, but that really isn't true. The person or event may be the trigger or be a catalyst, but it isn't the cause. If I say that I don't like purple hair, you might be offended. Have I said anything offensive, or caused you to feel offended? I merely made a preferential statement. However, if you had purple hair as a child, and were constantly told you were stupid, you grew up thinking that people with purple hair are stupid. So, when I said, "I don't like purple hair," you think I have called you stupid and thus feel offended.
Now, if I say, "all purple hair people I have met are stupid," then I am saying something that personally attacks a group of people, and if you have purple hair and I have just met you then you might feel offended. Everyone that I have met who have purple hair could feel that way. If I say, "all purple haired people are stupid," then everyone with purple hair, met or unmet, can rise up against me. The feelings of offense are triggered, not by truth, but the implications that are being laid. If you have purple hair and are not stupid, is there a reason for you to be upset? And if you have purple hair and are stupid, you wouldn’t get it anyway.
The feelings either come or they don't, and the way we feel isn't as important as why we feel it. Usually if someone's words offend us it is because the person either holds power over us or we hold them in high esteem. In other words I care about what that person has to say. If a racist, intolerant, bigot stands up waving a sigh and shouting, "Purple haired people are dumb, purple haired people are dumb, purple haired people are dumb," I might walk by in disgust but I won't feel hurt or betrayed. If my father, mother, teacher, pastor, leader, friend says it I am hurt because either: 1) I think maybe it is true, 2) I feel that they think less of me and I care what they think.
For the offended the question are the feelings. What do I do with the feelings that are triggered? First, we need to acknowledge the legitimacy of our feelings. They are barometers of something going on. To deny that I get angry, sad, frustrated, hurt, disgusted, or jealous is to ignore what is going on inside and hinders a proper response.
Secondly, we need to identify the feeling. What feeling was triggered by the event? Am I angry because I have purple hair and my parents always told me purple haired people were stupid, or am I angry because I was actually called stupid by the offender?
Thirdly, we need to own our emotion. In most cases emotions are triggered and not caused. I know that seems picky. I can hit you and cause pain, but I can't cause anger, contempt, fear, or even laughter. The emotion is based on other factors. If I hit you and it stings, you may laugh because I am a wimpy hitter. You may be angry because you think I was trying to harm you. You might feel fear because you think I am going to hit you again. You might feel contempt because you feel I have little regard for your happiness. All the while I was trying to kill the mosquito that was going to bite you. I caused pain, but the emotions were triggered based on your experience and knowledge.
Once we realize that our emotions of offense are not caused and are ours; then we can formulate an appropriate response. Remember, I am not saying that the emotional response of offense is justified or not, but rather the feeling belongs to us, and therefore the response and outcome are in our control. I'm just say......