Analyzing Offenses



Personal experience is usually our greatest teacher.
 

As we ponder and analyze life’s trials and experiences,
along with what wisdom we can accumulate from others,
we are able to learn important and lasting lessons,
change attitudes, and improve behavior—
all of which otherwise might have gone unnoticed.  


Judging Others

Many judge wrongly when they do not have all the facts to base conclusions on.  Offenses are usually not deliberate; but some take an isolated incident out of a person’s life, and portray that behavior as a constant behavior or attitude.  We cannot know the complete facts of the past history, thoughts, and intentions of those either living or deceased.  We usually judge others by their behavior, and judge ourselves by our intentions.  True charity is resisting the impulse to judge others. 

“Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned:  behold, the judge standeth before the door.”  (James 5:9)

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”   (Matthew 7:1-2)

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”  (John 8:7) 
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  (Mother Teresa)

"One sees clearly only with the heart.  The essential in life is invisible to the eye."  (The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

Separating the Offender and Offense

Too few of us differentiate between the sinner and the sin, or the offender and the offense.  Jesus did not despise sinners; it was their sins he loathed.  He practiced forgiveness toward a woman who, by law, was to be stoned to death. Christ certainly did not approve of what she had done, but he demonstrated forgiveness, and left it up to his Father in heaven to judge her. 

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”   (John 8:6-11)   

Be angry at the offense, not the offender.  Disappointing behavior should be considered as something temporary, not permanent—an act, not an identity.  All offenders may be redeemed by the atonement which promises complete forgiveness for every sin, transgression, crime, addiction or habit.  The atonement promises to forgive, clean, and reclaim every individual who repents and obeys the laws of God. 

As a parent, when your child’s behavior deeply disappoints you, do you withdraw love when your child is most unlovable and needs love the most?  Showing genuine love for others does not mean we condone or approve of their errors.  Parents should continue to love and care for their children no matter what they do.  Parents can help instead of condemn, love instead of hate, forgive instead of judge, build up rather than tear down, and lead rather than desert their children. 


Imperfection in Everyone

In all relationships, we are dealing with imperfect people (parents, children, spouses, in-laws, neighbors, friends, business associates, etc.).  It is not fair to expect perfection in others, when we cannot offer it ourselves.  Think of the beam in our own eye (Matthew 7:3), and how much we need others to forgive us.

True charity is accepting people as they truly are, along with their weaknesses and shortcomings. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time.  Be grateful that the Savior will always love us—even when we also fall short of our potential.


Seeking Revenge 

Revenge is not an option.  Never attempt to organize a campaign of revenge to destroy an offender.  Gandhi was right—if we all live by an “eye for an eye” kind of justice, the whole world will be blind.  Paul taught, “…see that none render evil for evil unto any man.” (1 Thess. 5:15); and the Lord said, “Vengeance is mine.” (Romans 12:19)  The Day of Judgment is coming, when all men will be judged, “every man according to their works.” (Revelations 20:13)  On that day, no one will escape the penalty of his deeds; and no one will be denied the blessings he has earned.  Although the loss of one soul is a very real and great loss to God, there will be a total judgment—by God himself. 

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:  I am the Lord.”  (Lev. 19:16-18) 



Anger and Resentment  

Anger and contention are the opposite of love, creating enemies and hatred toward others.  Solomon wisely said, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)   Hating another person does not make that person suffer; instead, your hate causes you further suffering.  Hatred retards spiritual growth, leaving no room for the Lord to put comfort into a heart full of hatred and bitterness.  If we are to obey the commandment of love, there will be no contention or anger between or among us.  We will not speak ill of one another, but will treat each other with kindness and respect.

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)
 
Anger is a choice which can fester and consume our thoughts unless we let it go. There is no real healing in anger or revenge.  It is only when we find the desire and ability to forgive the past, that Christ can remove our pain, and replace it with love. 


Health and Anger

An unforgiving heart can have a very lengthy and negative impact on our physical, emotional, and mental health.  The body may respond with spasms in the coronary arteries as blood pressure rises, stress hormones can surge, the body’s demand for oxygen can soar, and blood clots can form. 

Martin Doblemeier’s research on the physical effects of forgiveness showed that people who forgive enormous offenses are much better off than those who hang on to even the slightest grudge.  Other studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being.  (“Learning to Forgive,” Fred Luskin, in Carrie A. Moore, Deseret Morning News, Oct. 7, 2006, p.E1)  

The poison of anger can rob us of our social, mental, spiritual and physical health. Even if it appears that the offender may be deserving of our resentment, none of us can afford to pay the price of resentment, hate, depression, stress, and diminishing health.  Left unchecked, the habit of hatred and bitterness can grow until it eventually consumes our life.  Fortunately, we can choose to have greater health and happiness instead of misery and pain. 


Contention

Contention (including anger, gossip, slander, caustic comments, rudeness, hatred, revenge, and bitterness) is the opposite of charity, and will destroy love, trust and peace. 

Remember where contentious feelings really come from
, and stand firm against them.  John the Revelator taught that before we were born, we lived in a pre-mortal existence as spirit children in heaven, where Satan battled against God in a “war in heaven.” Satan did not prevail and lost that war; and as a result, he and those who followed him were cast out of heaven for their rebellion. 

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon…And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to earth…And there was a war in heaven:  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.  And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”   (Revelations 12:3-9) 

“Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea!  For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time…And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  (Revelations 12:12-17) 

For thousands of years, Satan and his followers have continued that same contentious war among men, a war between good and evil.  Today, they continue to work hard to destroy the mortal and eternal peace and happiness of all those who once fought to follow Christ and keep his commandments.

Satan influences our thoughts (Luke 22:3; John 13:2) in an effort to control or manipulate our behavior and actions.  “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7   Satan has power to place thoughts in our minds; however, he does not know whether these thoughts have taken root unless they are reflected in either our words or our actions.  Therefore, knowing Satan has no power to control a person against his will, each individual is free to decide which thoughts will occupy the present stage of his mind. 

The purpose of life is to find out the will of God, and prove to him that we will obey him in all things—including love and forgiveness—that we may receive blessings now, and one day be worthy to return and abide in God’s presence. (Exodus 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 13:3)   The day is not too far distant, when we will see the face of God and realize how familiar it is to us. 


Withholding Love

It is a sin to delight in the “deserved” suffering of others, withholding love, acceptance, encouragement, praise, and forgiveness from those who have offended us, feeling they do not deserve to be helped or forgiven.  Even those who pay for their wrongs through our justice system need our forgiveness.

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker:  and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”  (Proverbs 17:5)   


Beware of Pride

The greatest deterrent to a willingness to forgive may be pride—the opposite of humility.  After we have done all we can do for ourselves, the Lord wants to deliver us from or strengthen and sustain us in our suffering, by teaching us to become more humble, repentant, and righteous.  Those who choose to humble themselves can more easily receive help, comfort, a change of heart, and the ability to let go of hatred, bitterness, resentment, and revenge. 

Pride is a very misunderstood sin
, and many are sinning in ignorance.  Pride is far more than conceit and arrogance.  The central meaning of pride is enmity (hatred or opposition) toward God or toward our fellowman.  Since the proud are not easily taught, they do not receive counsel or correction easily.  They oppose God’s will, authority, and revelations in favor of their own desires.  The proud will not change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies that they have been wrong.  Paul explained that the proud “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”  (Philip. 2:21) 

Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees.  It adversely affects all of our relationships as it separates and divides people, destroying unity and brotherhood. 

The proud feel enmity toward all others, constantly elevating themselves as they make comparisons of intellect, opinions, talents, physical appearance, possessions, reputation, righteousness, achievements, professions, income, and anything else that can be measured against others.  A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him, because he thinks this lowers his position.  The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not.  Pride says, “If you succeed, I am a failure.” 

Other forms of pride which are common among us manifest themselves in the form of envy, jealousy, selfishness, defensiveness, contention, gossiping, finding fault, and withholding praise to avoid lifting another. 

Being unforgiving is a form of pride which can easily take hold in the heart of one who has felt the sting of abuse, pain and suffering.   Pride prevents us from settling our differences with others, because the proud are easily offended, hold grudges, and withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings. 

The proud want sympathy from others for the pain and suffering endured because of the choices of others, over which they had no control.  The proud want the offender to experience similar pain for his actions.  The proud do not want to give all of their pain to Christ, because they are afraid to remove the evidence of their suffering.  They may also worry that God’s mercy may eliminate sufficient punishment.   

The proud desire justice and restitution in order to have their reputation, respect, and honor restored after a betrayal, because they care so much about what others think of them.  C. S. Lewis stated that, “…it is very right, and often our duty, not to care what people think of us, if we do so for the right reason; namely, because we care so incomparably more what God thinks.”  

The scriptures give much evidence of the sin of pride and the severe consequences to those individuals, groups, cities and nations who were prideful:  

Pride caused the Pharisees to plot Christ’s death because he threatened their position.  (John 11:53)  

King Saul became an enemy to David through jealousy and pride. (1 Sam. 18:6-8)  

Pride caused King Herod to kill John the Baptist to please the crowd.  (Matthew 14:9; Mark 6:26)   

Pride destroyed the city of Sodom.  (Ezek. 16:49-50)  

The proud will burn as stubble when God cleans the earth by fire at the end of the world.  (Malachi 4:1)

“…only by pride cometh contention…Pride goeth before destruction...”  (Proverbs 13:10; 15:10; 16:18; 28:25; Amos 5:10; Matthew 3:9; John 6:30-59) 

“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride…Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… It is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began…Pride is spiritual cancer: It eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense…Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man…It is the comparison that makes you proud:  the pleasure of being above the rest.  Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone…As long as you are proud you cannot know God.  A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you…”    C. S. Lewis, “The Great Sin”

The first step to overcome pride and acquire humility is to honestly admit our own moments of pride. Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others, but is rarely admitted in ourselves. We can greatly diminish our pride by loving God and submitting our will to His (the only true gift we have to give the Savior), working to love and serve others, and forgive those who have offended us.  Second, as we pray and study the scriptures, we become better acquainted with God and more humble—the opposite of pride.  Then, we are better able to activate the Savior’s atonement by asking God to help us let go of resentment and pride, love and forgive others, and remain friends with the Lord and others.  

“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you…”  (John 15:14-15) 


Responding to Offense

Everyone chooses their own response when offended, misunderstood, treated unfairly or unkindly, sinned against, falsely accused, passed over, or hurt by those we love.  Feeling hurt or angry is normal; however, we can choose our response.  We can choose to become resentful and bitter and hold a grudge; or, we can try to resolve the problem, forgive, and rid ourselves of that burden.   Learn to partake of a bitter cup (a harsh, disagreeable, painful, hard to bear, or hostile offense) without becoming bitter. 

True charity is resisting the impulse to become offended easily.  We, not the offender, are responsible for our feelings—how we think, feel and act.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

In conclusion, we all attend the same School of Life where we are provided countless opportunities to offend or be offended, to experiment on one another, and to learn a great number of life’s lessons, especially charity.  As we interact with one another, we eventually learn that to truly love someone is to see them through the eyes of the Savior.  If that leads to a desire to do our best to love, forgive, and help others—that is charity. 

It is helpful to remember that most people are doing the best they can to deal with the challenges which come their way.  Imagine a world where people stop the road rage on the path of life, and with great love and care, help others in need along that path.