Why Do We Become So Easily Offended?

Do you find yourself feeling offended often? I encounter this reality every single day. Many people are so easily offended by me, by others (people, places, things, ideas).

Lately I’ve been listening to some lectures by Richard Rohr, who consistently points out the ego, or what he calls the “small self” is always easily offended. Another way to say it is that the part of you that is easily offended is not the true you, it is your ego. I’ve been considering this for a couple of weeks and paying close attention to when I feel offended and why. Every single time I have been offended – without fail – it is connected to my ego.

Rohr is teaching something extremely important here.

The Small Self: this is Rohr’s name for our ego. The ego has an intense need to feel right, admired, important, successful, have status, look good, etc. Rohr calls the ego the “small self” because it’s so much more flimsy and useless than our true self. The small self is so fragile that it has to constantly self protect. The small self defines itself over and against other people – it always needs an enemy and needs to win. If we are constantly offended by other people’s thoughts and actions, if we constantly feel the need to point out where everyone else is wrong and we are right, then we know that we are living primarily out of our small self. This is a miserable way to live.

The True Self: In contrast to the flimsy and fragile small self, the true self is largely invulnerable to offense. This is because the true self isn’t something we create/generate, but is something that we receive from God. The true self is the created self, the person God has made us to be. That self is safe from all hard because it is “Hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3). The true self does not need to appear strong because it is strong. It doesn’t take offense because it is able to forgive offenses in real time – immediately – without having to set the record straight or inform somebody of how they are wrong. The true self feels compassionate instead of offended. This is a joyful way to live.

If we are easily offended we are highly invested in our own ego, our own small self. A sign of true spiritual maturity is that we simply don’t become offended by others. We forgive others in real time as we also forgive ourselves. I shudder to think how much of my life is lived out of my small self, my ego. I am giving myself to trying to rid myself of this emotional and spiritual cancer.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • scott stone

    I’m offended that people are so easily offended.

  • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

    This is a helpful distinction which points to a reality that is very easily missed, even when we think we understand it. Jesus said for us to “be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.” This is possible because we have the mind of Christ–and as the carnal mind is crucified, we are raised with him in newness of life. The reality is easily missed because it *does* and *does not* involve great self-discipline on our part. There is something to be done and yet our “efforts” are often counterproductive. By way of clarification, it *does not* involve playing tug-of-war with the flesh (if we force the issue, today, chances are any ground that we seem to have gained will be lost down the road). But it *does* involves the discipline of simple, non-judgemental “awareness” (a kind of determination “t0 be present with what is present” (as Leonard Jacobson puts it). In this way, we begin to see through the illusion of “me” and, rather than continuing to “sow to the flesh”, begin to really live in the presence of the Lord (the Way, the Truth and the Life with which/Whom we are One in the Spirit). Question: Are you really willing to quit attempting to rig the game in favor of “me”? Sometimes it is “little me” that wants to “get rid of” some perceived “cancer”, where as our Father in heaven makes his sun to shine on cancer and kitty cats.

    http://demello.info/lang/en-in/2011/08/awareness-5

    Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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  • Mark

    Is the ego really a cancer? That seems extreme, especially since the ego seems to me to be the one thing that keeps us alive. We were designed with an ego, and it’s sole prupose is to make sure we don;t forget ourselves in the entire process? Right? It seems shortsighted to assume the something that God created within us could be all wrong.

  • Dana

    Interesting post. I think you’re right that it can be easy to be offended. It’s a very good idea to stop when you find yourself feeling offended and ask where that’s coming from.

    But I do also think we should be wary aboutthinking that that’s likely ALWAYS where it’s coming from. A common response to racism and sexism is to be “offended.” That’s basically the standard way to describe someone’s response. And people are often criticized for being “too easily offended” when they object to sexist or racist remarks, which is stupid.

    Not all “offense” is about the ego–or if it is (as a woman, my own ego is at stake when someone says sexist things about women), that doesn’t necessarily make the offense illegitimate.

  • jcon526

    I agree. We should always strive to be slow to anger and peaceable, and not easily offended, but we do need to guard against the notion that being offended is always a bad thing. It’s like comedians who tell jokes at the expense of certain groups of people while insisting that it’s healthy to laugh at yourself; however, not every joke is funny.

  • Claudfin

    I’m confused by this. If the real,higher self is able to “forgive” in real time,then what is it forgiving if not an offense?

  • Claudfin

    I agree Mark. I’m suspicious of absolutes,they’re never right(just kidding)
    Things aren’t usually so simple,so cut and dry.


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