When I was in high school, I was in the car with my dad one day, and he told me that he had learned to have an “unoffendable heart.” Dad had been a pastor for over 20 years at that point. He explained to me that people will say and do things to hurt you when you’re a leader, but you have to choose to move past it and not let it wound you or eat you up on the inside. He encouraged me to have an “unoffendable heart” as I grew older and began to lead others.
I hadn’t thought about that conversation with my dad for several years, but God reminded me of it this past year. At the time, Satan was trying to rob me of the peace that God wanted to give me. The opposite of peace can be worry and fear, but it can also be conflict, chaos, feeling angry and offended.
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
But my heart often felt troubled, and I was grasping for some peace.
God saw my heart, He started showing me that Satan wants to use offenses in our lives as spiritual attacks. An offense can include any unresolved issues or ugly residues of conflict. Hanging onto an offense is the trigger to the trap of a spiritual attack. It can lead us toward a life of animosity, bitterness and unforgiveness. And that’s exactly what Satan wants.
Avoiding the Trap
One day last year I found out about something bad. When I found out, my anger started rising. My hands were shaking, and I knew that nothing good was going to come out of my mouth at that moment. I went to bed because I knew I was too angry to think about how to start solving the problem right then.
The next day, I went to work and still felt so angry. I kept replaying the details in my mind of how I had been lied to and disrespected. I was tired of dealing with stuff like this, and I was tired of forgiving. (I know I’m not the only one, so keep reading.)
As I drove home from work, I tried to pray. I worried whether this issue would blow up and become an even worse situation. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Mary, what happened was wrong, and you have every right to feel offended. But it’s up to you how this goes today. You can choose to show your anger and tell everyone involved how you didn’t deserve to be treated like this. Or you can choose to resolve this conflict without feeling personally offended.”
That’s when God reminded me of the words my dad said to me when I was in high school. It clicked with me that having an “unoffendable heart” was what God was asking me to do for this season (or maybe for the rest of my life...).
Yet, I still was feeling so angry. I knew the Lord was speaking to me, but I honestly didn’t think the other person deserved my mercy and forgiveness, and I didn’t care about mending the relationship at that moment. I only cared about how this was hurting me.
But the Lord is merciful even when I am not. I walked into the situation with my jaw set and my eyes glaring, ready to fight. But the Holy Spirit gave me a wave of compassion to soften my words and to listen. I decided to stop feeling offended, and God worked to bring something beautiful out of that bad conflict.
About 6 weeks after that incident, I was reading Havilah Cunnington’s book Stronger than the Struggle, and she said exactly what I believe the Holy Spirit was trying to teach me that day when I was praying in the car: “Honestly, it doesn’t matter if we have a legitimate reason for offense or if we’re nursing a self-inflicted wound. It comes down to how we want to live. If we really want to be free—living a healthy and whole spiritual life, free from the Devil’s drama—then we have to remove offense from our lives, being vigilant to keep offense as far away from our hearts as possible.”
I resonate with this truth. For the past several months, I have been choosing daily to have an “unoffendable” heart. Some days, I don’t want to—I still would rather focus on how I feel and get all worked up and offended. Some days I don’t want to forgive. Some days I just want to be selfish and not consider others’ perspectives. Some days I want to hang onto an offense, BUT THAT IS A TRAP. I know from personal experience that it steals your joy and steals your peace. It even steals your sleep.
I know that I can’t control others’ behavior, and I can’t control the many details of my circumstances. But I can control my choice to not hang onto offenses.
Now having an “unoffendable heart” is part of how I protect the peace that God gives me, how I fight for my relationships with my family and friends, and how I stand strong against the enemies’ schemes. I want to thank God today for giving me so much peace in this new season.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3.
1. (2108). Cunnington, Havilah. Stronger Than the Struggle: Uncomplicating Your Spiritual Battle. p. 169.
2. (2108). Cunnington, Havilah. Stronger Than the Struggle: Uncomplicating Your Spiritual Battle. p. 173.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.