Have you ever found yourself asking, “How did I get here…in this black hole of depression?” During the years that I fought depression, I asked myself this question many times. My conclusion?
Offense is one of the most common door-openers to depression.
Whether the offense is real or imagined doesn’t seem to matter. So why does offense make us vulnerable to depression? Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s because offense tends to show up at the same time as pain, trauma and grief. It’s when someone or something pokes at us. Provokes us. Leaves us. Harrasses us. Wounds us. When these life altering crises happen, we have a choice to make: How will we respond?
We can choose to hold onto anger and offense. This is what Cain did in Genesis chapter 4. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the LORD. God accepted Abel’s offering, but didn’t look with favor on Cain’s offering. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Cain made his choice. Instead of letting go of his offense, he gave full vent to his anger. He went out and killed his brother Abel. The consequences he experienced were almost too much to bear. He was a restless wanderer for the rest of his life.
The second way we can respond when offended is to forgive and take our pain to God. In Samuel chapter 1 we see a woman named Hannah who chose this path. Her husband had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Penninah’s goal was to provoke Hannah to jealousy. She boasted that God had blessed her with children and had had closed Hannah’s womb. Hannah’s husband tried to console her, saying, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted?” Instead of stewing in offense, Hannah went to the temple and poured out her heart to God. She told Him how she felt. She asked Him for a son. She worshipped. God answered her prayer, and she gave birth to Samuel.
Whether we’re angry with God, others or ourselves, the solution is the same. Let it go. Surrender our perceived right to be angry. Put the need for justice into God’s hands. I remember one time when I was in a store. I was doing fine emotionally when I went in. I walked by a woman handing out samples of gum. I reached out my hand to take a sample. When I did, she verbally shamed me because my hand went a few inches under the glass. Without me consciously realizing it at first, a wave a heaviness came over me. It wasn’t until I got to my car that I recognized the shift that had happened. At first I didn’t want to acknowledge that I felt offended. It seemed SO petty. It would’ve been easier to admit if the offense had been more significant. I knew that big or small, the solution was the same. I sat in my car and made the choice to let go of the offense. The heaviness lifted.
Proverbs 27:3 gives us a glimpse into the connection between heaviness (a symbol of depression) and offense when it says, “A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is even heavier.”
The thing is, if we’re holding onto offense, we’re walking in rebellion. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Forgiveness isn’t optional if we want to be in right standing with God. Like Cain, God calls us to master offense if we are going to overcome depression.
In their book, Overcoming Emotions That Destroy, authors Chip Ingram and Dr. Becca Johnson share the ABCDs of forgiving:
A. Acknowledge you are/were angry. Admit and accept your anger. “I was angry at _______when he/she_______.”
B. Backtrack and identify the primary emotion(s). [Anger is a secondary emotion] Ask yourself what you were really feeling. “What I really felt was ________(hurt, frustrated, wounded, etc.).”
C. Consider the cause. (What contributed to the feelings?) Ask yourself what happened and why you felt that way. “I felt this way because_______.”
D. Determine how to deal with it. How did you respond to this situation? What would it look like to address this anger issue in a positive way?
- Talk with God about how you felt and why?
- Evaluate your response and apologize if necessary?
- Recognize that you were rightfully angry and that this good anger should motivate you to some positive response?
If you find overcoming offense difficult, I highly recommend this book. The authors offer wonderful insights. If you express anger through spewing, stuffing or leaking, it’s a wonderful resource:
May the grace of God flow out from us to others,