I wasn’t as a young husband. Now I am—as an old man. Wish I started earlier. I am sad that I selfishly took offenses personally. That means the law—“an eye for an eye,” an offense for an offense.
When Karen as a young mother was surrounded by crying infants and noisy toddlers, with dinner to prepare and people sharing our home, her stress level sometimes went quickly from a 2 to a 10. Do you blame her? She once went to the doctor, who asked if she lived with stress. She answered naively, “I don’t think so.” He asked her to describe her life. She said, “I have four young children, three people living in our home, meals to prepare, and a pastor husband who is often gone.” The doctor responded, “That spells “STRESS!”
So what would a mature husband do? He would become the release valve for an over-the-top mother. That’s what Solomon recommends in Proverbs 17:9: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” I could have promoted our ongoing love affair by covering the real offense. Yom kippur, Hebrew for “day of atonement,” literally means “day of covering.” The blood of Jesus cleanses because it covers. Sin exposes us—blood covers and cleanses us. I could have covered for my wife.
Solomon suggests option A for building healthy relationships. Mature people are promoters of love by not letting a potential offense stick. Immature people choose to become evangelists of offense. We proclaim what has been unjustly done, and not surprisingly, it creates separation. I say to my shame that I chose option B too often. Karen has kindly forgiven me and now tells our children that Dad lives above offense.
The next chapter describes what happens to those who choose option B: “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel” (18:19). He’s locked up, and you can’t get in. Apologies won’t get you in, nor will reason or even love. Does that describe you? Are you so easily wounded, so quick to personalize a wrong, that you pick up offenses like a scavenger? Don’t plan on a healthy marriage or a healthy life—you’re in prison.
Solomon looks again at option A in the next chapter: “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (19:11). We are not responsible for what people do to us. We are responsible for our responses. A bad response to a bad offense will do fine for an irresponsible comeback. Like my kids used to drone,” He hit me first,” legitimizing revenge. Wisdom chooses patience rather than a quick retort. Glory is the manifestation of character. Overlooking an offense is glorious!
A friend once told me, “Just so you know, Paul, it is almost impossible to offend me.” Hey, I’d like to live that way! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. He can make it happen!