Why Leaders Cannot Afford to Be Easily Offended

As a leader, you are going to draw fire. People will criticize you. Some will second-guess your decisions. Others will impute motives that aren’t there. A few will falsely accuse you.

A Leader Being Criticized By Another Person - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BelleMedia, Image #347593

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BelleMedia

For example, just a few weeks ago, someone wrote a blog post, publicly calling me a hypocrite. I won’t lie: it stung. I was tempted to respond in kind. Thankfully, I didn’t.

But that doesn’t mean it was easy. It never is for me. I often have to remind myself of three great truths I have learned—and am still learning—about offenses.

  1. Offenses are inevitable. Jesus Himself said,

    Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:7)

    According to the Dictionary.com, woe means, “grievous distress, affliction, or trouble.” Anyone who has been offended understands woe. And, in my experience, it doesn’t get much easier with age.

    But as Jesus also notes, offenses must come. People offend us by what they do (sins of commission) and, sometimes, by what they don’t do (sins of omission). Either way, life affords us daily opportunities to be offended.

    Note that while offenses may be inevitable, Jesus doesn’t let the offender off the hook. They, too, are accountable and will experience their own level of woe.

  2. Offenses can be good for us. This is a hard saying. In the midst of being offended, it is difficult to believe that any good could come out of it, let alone that God might have a bigger purpose in mind. But consider two examples from the Bible.

    The patriarch Joseph was ridiculed, kidnapped, and then sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was later falsely accused of attempting to seduce the wife of a high-ranking, Egyptian official. He spent several years in prison, and it was years before he was vindicated.

    He could have been very angry with his brothers. Years later, when he finally meets up with them again, he is in a position of tremendous power. He could easily have had his revenge. Instead, Joseph said to them,

    Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:19–20)

    Or consider King David. In the latter part of his life, he was chased out of Jerusalem by his treasonous son, Absalom. If that weren’t bad enough, a character named Shimei meets him on the road and starts throwing rocks at him. He curses the king and reminds him of all his sins. He says,

    Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” (2 Samuel 16:7, 8)

    Abishai, one of King David’s servants, said, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” But note how David responded:

    Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” (2 Samuel 16:11, 12).

    It’s easy to resent those who offend us. But what if God has a deep and important purpose for sending them—something that He intends for our good because He truly loves us (see Romans 8:28).

  3. Being offended is a choice. Every leader should memorize this verse:

    The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

    There are certainly times when it is legitimate to be angry. The Apostle Paul says, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger can be a valid response to something that is wrong. But it can quickly become toxic—not only for those to whom we direct it but also for ourselves. This is why the Apostle James admonishes us to be “slow to anger” (James 1:19, 20).

    Between the stimulus and the response is the power to chose. This is precisely what makes us human. We don’t have to respond in kind.

The greatest leaders I know are not easily offended. Instead, they practice the habit of overlooking offenses. They take the high road, give the offender the benefit of the doubt, and move on. What about you?

Question: What can you do to become less likely to be offended? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I’m trying, Michael. This is a good reminder, especially in the Internet age. I take offense too easily and care too much about what other people think. You’re making me think and work at it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good! Sometimes I write these posts to myself as a reminder. This is a case in point. You’re not alone!

      • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

        Man, that’s the great thing about blogging… you write to aan audience, but you also write to yourself so you can be reminded of these things…

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          So true. We learn by teaching (in this case writing). Sharing what we learn reminds us, and enforces what we have learned. It even challenges us to do something better because we have put it out in front of others to see – who inevitably look to see if we do what we preach…er, write.

  • http://twitter.com/LShallenberger Larry Shallenberger

    I’m in this right now. Strategies I’m attempting are:

    1) Attributing the highest motives possible to the other party. (Love believes all things.)
    2) Refusing to narrate my story for a long time. I think we all edit and narrate our own stories to cast ourselves as the heroes or victims to evade responsibility. I’ve given myself permission not to draw conclusions, life lessons, etc. until a date at the second half of the year. I don’t trust my objectivity right now.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Both of your points are great. The second one deserves an entire blog post. I have sometimes been astonished at the gap between what happened and what someone said happened. I’m not thinking of intentional lies here, but just a distorted narrative. The problem is that these narratives have the power to shape our lives—often in destructive ways.


      • http://twitter.com/LShallenberger Larry Shallenberger

        I definitely have undeniable culpability in my situation. That, in a way, helps. The “Oz Principle” is a helpful book that focused me on owning my piece of the puzzle instead of a sum-zero blame game.

  • Paul

    Much of Proverbs deals with how we use our words. Very important to remember in the age of social media. Also applies to everyone, not just those in leadership positions.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Amen to that. And the words we utter via social media last forever!

    • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

      Rachel Held Evans write a good article about this in the aftermath of the Tuscon shooting.


    • http://twitter.com/mariachong mariachong

      When I first came to know God, someone encouraged me to underline all the verses in Proverbs that deal with words. So I did. And it is remarkable how many of them deal with anger, offenses, patience, waiting before speaking. To help remind me of this, I made a commitment last year to be always reading Proverbs. Once I finish with chapter 31, I go back to chapter 1.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    When we are offended, the response can be “Value-the-Other-Person’s-Perspective” approach when we feel that it is constructive and healthy. But, when we can understand that it was made with malicious and evil intention, we can safely ignore the same. I believe that we should not be oversensitive in responding to criticisms. For it is said in Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 that, “Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you— for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others. “

    The unfortunate but unavoidable fact of the matter is offenses are going to come our way. When they do, it’s okay to admit that it hurts. However, we don’t have to get upset about it. We can choose to not be offended. It is better to remember that you should “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” as spelt out by Colossians 3:13.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Two great verses, Uma. I had completely forgotten about the first one.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Uma, thanks for the verses. It is easy to get upset at others, forgetting about the thoughts that we have had about them. All of this also fits well with yesterday’s post – when we take time to see into others, to see them the way God sees them, the grievances become smaller as we focus less on our own world (which is usually full of self-pity) and truly see the needs of others.

  • http://twitter.com/doughibbard Doug Hibbard

    I think one crucial aspect of being less offended is to try and assume the offending party has good intentions and just bad methods. With church issues, that’s often what’s happening to me: I’ve done something that pushes against someone’s deeply held traditions and convictions of what church is supposed to be, and they’re trying to defend what is important. Remembering that helps me be more willing to dialog and calm down.

    The other option is to do nothing, so no one takes offense. But that requires abandoning hope.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think this is an important assumption. Even if I am wrong, and the other person was acting with malice, I would rather start with the opposite. I find that this is more often than not, the truth.

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org @PaulSteinbrueck

    Good post, Michael. What helps me to avoid being offended is to always keep in mind that I am valuable because God made me and loves me. So,

    1) Nothing anyone says can diminish my value as a person.

    2) Since my value comes from God and not the opinions of others, I don’t have to try to convince others that that I’m right and they’re wrong every time. I’m not going to let critics distract my attention or drain time away from more important things.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Excellent, Paul. These are great points.

  • http://jhwist.tumblr.com/ Henrik Wist

    Thank you for that article, Michael. For me, it’s really hard to not get offended, because I care deeply for what I do and for what I believe is right, and therefore, if someone offends me, I tend to take it personally and have a hard time to overlook the offense.

    I’m under the impression that it actually gets easier with age, at least for me. Maybe because I kind of get used to it or because I get wiser and sometimes am able to keep my first reaction (usually either denial or contra-offense) for myself and think about it for a few seconds (that’s usually enough for me to get over the worst part of being offended).

    Also, generally trying to take the high road and live a positive life helps in getting offended easily. It’s hard to offend someone who’s constantly happy and smiling :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I probably could have been clearer: the hurt doesn’t get easier for me nor does the temptation to lash out. However, I do tiynk I have grown in how I respond. Thanks.

      • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

        Def., leaders have to control how they respond to others. Learning how to respond in a proper manner is what makes a great leader.

  • http://www.thepoint-leah.blogspot.com Leah Adams

    “Offenses are inevitable”—oh yes, they are…regardless of whether you are a leader of an organization or not.

    What can we do to become less likely to be offended? I think for one thing we can pray and ask God to bear our offenses. We can also ask Him to show us how we can grow in character as a result of the offense. I wish I could say that I always see offenses as an opportunity to examine myself and grow, but I still have a lot of work to do in that regard.

    Thought provoking post.

  • Carmen Bernal

    Thank God there are more people than ONLY myself who goes through this! ;-)

    Good article, as usual.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You are definitely not alone. I think this is a very common problem.

  • Carmen Bernal

    Thank God there are more people than ONLY myself who goes through this! ;-)

    Good article, as usual.

  • Jill

    Thank you so much, Michael!

    I REALLY needed Proverbs 19:11 and I will be memorizing that verse today! THANK YOU!

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    I’m always looking for that elusive higher perspective in such situations. I’ve found James 1:2-5 helps:

    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

    Question: Did you respond the blogger’s attack in the comments or with a private email or anything? Every situation is different, and it very well may have been wrong to do so. I’m just curious how you handled it in light of your advice to “manage your online brand.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that is a GREAT passage. If you get a chance, read it in the Philips translation. It is especially powerful.

      I ignored the other blogger. He has lashed out at me before. It takes discernment, but some people only get more aggressive when you engage them.

      • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

        “Welcome them as friends” – love it. Thanks for pointing me to the Philips on that one.

        And thanks for answering the question – definitely sounds like a “pearls before pigs” situation.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that is a GREAT passage. If you get a chance, read it in the Philips translation. It is especially powerful.

      I ignored the other blogger. He has lashed out at me before. It takes discernment, but some people only get more aggressive when you engage them.

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org @PaulSteinbrueck

    Another thing that helps me avoid being offended is to separate what I do from who I am. 90%+ of criticism I get is on things I’ve done – a decision, a blog post, something I said etc. If someone tells me I made a bad decision, that doesn’t mean they think I’m a bad person. But a lot of people take it personally and hear it that way.

    On the flip side, that’s why it’s important as leaders to critique people’s behavior and not who they are as a person.

  • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

    I thank you for your words of guidance and wisdom. Always timely and on target.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatGuyKC K.C. Pro

    Thank you for sharing this wisdom in dealing with offenses.
    I don’t know if it’s uniquely American or not, but we seem to be easily offended.
    Maybe it’s because I daily witness the Seattle Freeze. (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2005/0213/cover.html)

    Thank you for the reminder that being offended is a choice.
    I’ll be sharing the verse with my small group.

  • Luppynat Benson

    I have learned, through practice unfortunately!, to hunker down with my mouth closed and wait. 90% of the time the with time people will move on to the next person to put down and rip on. In many cases, the people who have offended me are lashing out because they are hurting in their own lives. So, for me to try to defend myself or, God forbid, offend them back, is just so unproductive. When I am in a particularly hard situation I often repeat, “Love covers a multitude of sin.” many times! We are called to love people, regardless of whether they love back, through all kinds of behavior and lashings. So I try to remember that!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great point. You never know what the other person is going through. Rarely, is the intent to offend us. We need to model the grace we say we believe in.

  • David Gleason

    Mr. Hyatt,

    Another great post today. I am a Pastor in South Carolina and I often encounter this very thing. It’s all about how we react for sure.

    David Gleason

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think pastors are particularly vulnerable. Sometimes, no matter what they do, they are going to draw fire—just as their Lord did.

  • http://www.walterwillis.net Walter

    I have found something that Steve Brown once said very helpful (this is not a direct quote):

    “If the person who offended you is a believer, then their offense has already been paid for by Christ’s death on the cross… let it go. If the person who offended you is not a believer then try to model what it is like to be a believer by the way you forgive and treat them… let it go. If the person who offended you never becomes a believer, then God will punish their offense in far more just ways than you can – so you don’t need to get revenge – God will balance the books… let it go. In all three examples, God has you covered so that you can let it go.”

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Powerful content, Michael. As a speaker, I’ve been amazed at the things that I say that offend people at times. Humor is especially tricky. The old adage “You can’t please all of the people all of the time,” is so true. As a Christian, I’ve come to realize how offensive the bible is to certain groups. But the bible implores us to “speak the truth in love.”
    To be a pastor, politician, or pundit requires a thick skin. Unfortunately we lose a great number of influential leaders because of this. Who would want to run for a high political office with all the mud that is thrown?
    Your list reminds us all that if we are going to make a difference in this world, there will be hurdles and offences along the way. How we respond to them is up to us.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think this comes with leadership. The higher you rise, the more you will be a target. That’s why I think leaders have to develop the ability to overlook offenses. Nothing makes a person look smaller than when they get offended.

      Thanks for your input, John.

  • http://www.hillsideslide.blogspot.com hillsideslide

    First, I try to really think through what I say and do. Once I think I’ve acted with best intentions & am satisfied with that, the “offenses” are easier to deal with.

    If I get an “offensive” response, I try to see if they’ve have a point. (this is where the ego gets challenged- is it about ME being right, or a greater truth?)

    Finally, I try to see things from their perspective, emotionally. What’s got them upset. If I have the time/energy, I’ll ask them to share more. I try to understand.

    OH, my rules:
    1.Love the person in front of me.
    2. Be “on their side” as much as possible (seek their shalom)
    3. Deal with them directly, no going behind backs.

  • http://edwincrozier.com Edwin Crozier

    This is great stuff. I need to remember this. I don’t know that my problem is taking offense in the sense of being mad at someone as much as it is obsessing over someone not liking me. I get too wrapped up in seeing my value based on other people liking me instead of remembering that I’m worth something because Jesus died for me.

    I also really like the comment by @PaulSteinbrueck about separating what I do from who I am. Pulling that off will really help me.

    With all this in mind, I hope I can offer one bit of constructive criticism without being offensive.

    In Matthew 18:7, the word translated “offense” is not about having our feelings hurt or getting into resentment as we use the word “taking offense” today. The word is “skandalon” and actually means a stumbling-block or a trap or snare. As the ESV translates it, it is a “temptation to sin.” Notice in the context that he is talking about causing someone who had a child-like faith to stumble and sin. Then Jesus goes on to talk about what we should do if our eye or hand give us offense or rather cause us to stumble.

    In other words, I agree 100% with point of this post and needed to hear it. However, while the point would have also been true that people will offend us in that modern sense of the word, that is not the point Jesus was making in Matthew 18:7.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for pointing that out. But isn’t the temptation to harbor bitterness or resentment a temptation, too? Thanks.

      • http://edwincrozier.com Edwin Crozier

        Good point, Michael. And in that sense, someone offending me in the modern sense of the term can fit within the point Jesus was making, but only secondarily, not directly.

        I think it is important for us to understand what Jesus was speaking of directly because it may not be the least bit offensive to someone in the modern sense for me to tell them a dirty joke or invite them to get drunk with me or show them a porn site. But these are stumbling blocks in which I’ve cause them to sin and then I’ve violated what Jesus was talking about in this passage. Further, I may offend someone in the modern sense of the word by telling them I believe they shouldn’t participate in homosexuality. I may hurt their feelings by saying they were wrong when they had an abortion. They may even harbor resentment and bitterness against me for those things. But I didn’t violate what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18:7. I didn’t put a stumbling block before them that caused them to sin. I was trying to help them overcome sin.

        But again, I want to reiterate that I needed to read the main theme of this post. Even though I believe it is different from what Jesus directly meant, I still think it is true. Offenses in this modern sense are inevitable. As a leader, we must learn how to not to be easily offended or provoked to anger, bitterness, and resentment (cf. Proverbs 14:17, 29; 15:18; 16:32; 19:11; James 1:19-20).

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Great. That makes sense. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/ServingStrong Scott Couchenour

    Great post. Taking things personally can be a tremendous source for burning out in ministry leadership. Like you said, it’s a choice to be offended. I try to stay as close to Jesus as I can so that I take my clues from Him and not what others say. Then, if what others say is something I really need to hear, He lets me know.

  • http://bladeronner.com Ron Dawson

    Oh man, this is a perfect post for me. One of the struggles I have is being able to ignore it when I’m publicly attacked or offended. As best as possible I try to allow space between the stimulus and the response (usually at the behest of my beloved wife). But there have been more times than I think is right where I let the email, blog post, or forum response fly off my finger tips way too soon.

    One thing I’m trying to do is focus on GOD’s opinion, rather than that of others. I think that the more we can make His opinion that only one we REALLY care about, the easier it will be to respond to offenses by mortal man, and the more peace we’ll have in life.

    Thanks for another great read. I’ve starred this one in my reader. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ron. I like Jesus response, too: “But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this iscommendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:20b–23).

  • Andrea

    “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

    I love this!

  • http://www.davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    I’m less likely to be offended when I’m more open about my weaknesses. Critics can then become counselors if you don’t take yourself too seriously!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love this thought! Excellent.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Great point. When we hold on too tight to what we do and what we are, it is easy to take offense at even the smallest of things. When we take time to listen to our critics, we can sometimes gain valuable information or perspective. Plus, when we do this, it will often times soften the situation and turn the offender back into a supporter.

      • http://www.davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

        So true, Steve.

  • http://relevantbrokenness.com Marni Arnold

    My one thing I know I can be doing to help me overcome offense better is praying more.

    My personal prayer life has never been the strongest suit…and it is one that has become a predominant reminder that I need to be engaging in more and more lately; especially since last week I experienced a deep offense from someone who was my accountability partner (note, I said…was). This person wanted to avoid offending me by keeping what they had to tell me, from me for a month – this truth only compounded the offense deeper than if they had come to me in a matter of days or even a weeks time frame; so it hurt pretty deeply.

    Since that time, I have been taught a great deal concerning leadership – and one thing is what I shared with this person when we talked…and I told them they very thing you discuss here. Offenses will happen [we cannot avoid them, nor should we avoid offending others – it’s bound to happen at one time or another] – but it isn’t that we experience them, it is how we handle and respond to them. I honestly though didn’t do as well as I could have.

    I have learned many other aspect from this moment in my life concerning leadership – but on the offense level, it has been prompting me to pray more than I ever have before; and I mark that on my board as a good thing. It is helping me get God in the mix of my pain and heal it – rather than letting it fester and become toxic (toward this person, and myself).

    Thanks for a great post – it is a bookmark on my favorites to reflect on in the future.

  • http://www.chrisshaughness.com Chris Shaughness

    Life offers constant opportunities for us to be offended by others, for the simple reason that we’re all different. I could be offended by the color of the tie the man is wearing in the photo. And some people really will be! Recognizing and constantly reminding myself that we are unique individuals with diverse tastes and opinions keeps me from being offended. And the post from Mr. Foster yesterday, to see into people, also helps me to remember to try to see things from others’ perspectives. But it’s an ongoing process…

  • djp

    The other Michael asked, “what would Jesus do?” Jesus said (Luk 6:28) “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I don’t find that easy to do, but do we pray for those who offend us and ask God’s blessing for them. Not easy, but those are the instructions and they will help to keep us from becoming bitter. (I was going to also leave this post on the other Michael’s blog, but don’t like leaving passwords on websites). God’s blessings to you this day (and no, not because you are an enemy).

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a great reminder. It also provides something positive we can do on behalf of others. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/markjaffrey Mark Jaffrey


    A really great book on the subject, although I can’t stand the book title, is “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere. He goes into great Biblical depth to show how taking offense with one another is the primary one of Satan’s traps that we fall into, which leads to his ultimate goal of disunity among believers.

    So don’t let the title or the flames (!) on the cover put you off. I recommend it for all Christian leaders as a vital tool in the toolbox.

    See you at Recreate.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I am very familiar with this book. (John Bevere is a friend.) This is a great recommendation.

  • http://twitter.com/keithseabourn Keith Seabourn

    I read this morning Proverbs 20, verse 30:
    Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
    and beatings purge the inmost being.

  • http://twitter.com/samdavidson samdavidson

    You were wise to not respond. Your points are all spot on, too, especially #3. Thanks for this reminder!

  • http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/davidandlisafrisbie DrDavidFrisbie

    It is hard (not impossible) to be offended when someone loves us and carefully tells us a deep but difficult truth. Here the relationship itself eases the sting. Usually when we are offended the offender is not a careful and wise close friend — but is thoughtless, brash, insecure, immature — and we are wise to consider the source.

  • Krista

    How can we best help leaders who try to control every ounce of criticism against them? I know one leader who spends a lot of his time trying to control people who say anything negative about him, and the more he tries to control it, the more criticism seems to come his way. It appears to take away from him being who he was really called by God to be.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think that is the real strategy of the enemy. If he can keep us distracted with attacks, we soon get off our mission and become less effective.

  • http://www.asistasjourney.com Natasha Robinson

    Read the “Peace Maker” by Ken Sande a couple weeks ago which stresses the importance of overlooking an offense. The book also walks through the biblical way of resolving conflict. Changed my life, prospective, and views of responsibilities (both as an offender or one wh is offended). I recommend reading once or twice/year. Of course, it is very chanllenging if not impossible to resolve conflict in a social environment. (Maybe post a very nice comment on their blog :-) Totally agree that leaders cannot be easily offended.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the recommendation. I will look it up.

  • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

    Great post! This is the best one I have seen from you in awhile!

    Great points…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Wow! Thanks.

  • http://www.jenniferrothschild.com Phil Rothschild

    This was right on Mike. Thanks for a providing a sound, and Biblical basis for this.

  • Sean Fishstix3214

    For me, sometimes it’s easier to write an offense off as constuctive criticism. Because who knows? They may be right and I could completely miss an opportunity to learn something and grow from it. But most likely, they’re totally wrong and have no idea what they’re talking about ;)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Exactly. Often the reason these things sting is because there is some truth in it. My critic, for example, accused me of being a hypocrite. The truth is, I am. My private and public lives don’t line up 100%. But I am working on that!

  • Caleb Gallifant

    Great! David Powlison at CCEF has a great article on this called “Does the Shoe Fit.” Here’s the link: http://www.ccef.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Doesthe%20shoefit-DP.pdf

  • Marsha Young

    When I “lived in a corner office” I would remind myself of Paslm 119:165, when someone had been particularly offensive.

    “Great peace have they which love thy law and nothing shall offend them.”

    If I cared more about what God thought about my decisions and actions, than I did about what some twit down the hall was saying, then sooner or later it was going to work out. And it generally did.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is another GREAT verse. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

    In answer

  • http://twitter.com/rgriffithjr Rob Griffith

    Thanks for the post Michael. Sometimes peopel find themselves in a position of leadership without asking to be in that position. This is a good reminder of how to respond and act based on the position whether it was by choice or not.

  • http://twitter.com/PediatricInc Brandon Betancourt

    I can’t think of a blog post that has been more opportune in my life right now. It is as if God said, “This human can’t seem to get what I’m trying to say despite his request for leadership… I’m going to have to spell it out in black for him… good grief.”

    Then, mid morning, I read Michael’s post.


    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am so glad. This is what keeps me blogging!

  • http://familysynergy.wordpress.com JD Eddins

    I think many leaders get offended because they lack confidence in who they are. Another cause, and this can work either way, but for me, I get more offended when someone challenges me in an area that I think is one of my strengths. It might still hurt when someone challenges me in a area of my weakness, but rarely does it offend as badly.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonvana Jason Vana

    I actually dealt with the possibility of offense this past weekend. Some things I do to keep offense from my life:

    1. Always think the best of people and their motives. It’s possible the thing they said or did that would make me offended were actually wrong perceptions or miscommunications. I try to lean towards that option as much as possible.

    2. Admit the hurt/offense to the person. I’ve always been challenged that when I’m hurt and offended, NOT to talk about it to everyone else, but to first go to the person who hurt me and talk to them. It has saved me days of worry, offense and thinking the worst of someone. And it keeps me from talking bad about someone.

    Great post!

  • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

    One of the things I’ve learned is that leadership is not what you imagine it will be when you’re not in leadership. It’s not the glorious pedastal where you’re ideas and worth are celebrated; it’s the lowly place of service that often times doubles as target practice. The golden rule applies to would be leaders for sure.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is so true, Bret. Leadership has its joys but generally it is a burden.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Hey Bret, this is a great reminder. The grass is always greener on the other side and it is easy to look up the chain of leadership and think, “Wow, if I could only be there.” Yet, the more we lead, the more we put out before others to see, the more criticism we will have. Leadership is a calling and it helps to remember that great leaders really lead with a servant’s heart.

      • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

        Thanks, Steven

  • http://twitter.com/2020VisionBook Joshua Hood

    “Forgiveness is the fragrance the rose leaves on the heel that crushed it.”

    Josh Hood

  • http://twitter.com/HallowedUK Hallowed 2009

    Thank you! I should try and memorise this blog

  • http://twitter.com/joereed426 Joe Reed

    Jesus still loves me ;) my wife & kids most of the time too

  • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

    I do not know if I can become less offended. I have gotten some criticism lately and it really stings. I try to let it go, but it makes me want to respond with some words of my own.

    I think the biggest thing I am working on doing is seeing my identity in christ and not in what others are saying. As someone who struggles with what others think of me I am constantly working on understanding that i will never live up to others expectations.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Hang in there. You already know the truth – the necessity of listening to God’s voice over the voices of others. Sometimes we can benefit from the criticism; but, it helps to remember that the criticism is really about our actions (sometimes accurate and sometimes not). But, when it comes to who we are, we listen to Jesus.

      • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

        appreciate that

    • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

      The trick is in learning to receive all feedback as a gift, regardless of the spirit in which it is given.

  • http://www.gospellab.com Gospel lab

    Leadership is like being the driver in the car. Often when people try to offend leaders it is usually, subconsciously, directed toward their title or position(car), not the leader themselves.

    As leaders, we have to get out from behind the wheel every now and then and wash the car.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    This is a tough one for me. I take things too personally too often. It’s been a continual struggle to stop being offended so easily. I think I’ve done pretty good, but have to stay on top of it to keep it that way. Thanks for a very helpful reminder today, Michael!

  • http://twitter.com/jtmtweets Jon Manning

    If people are bashing you or criticizing you maybe that just means we are doing our jobs as christians. God never said it was going to be easy or that we would be going with the main stream flow. That doesn’t give us a right to be militant or anything but. It does mean that maybe when we are being criticized we should take that as a good sign and move forward. The early disciples we persecuted and hated because they stepped out against culture. Yes, of course they were also under Roman rule.

    But more than that, the Jews would follow them around and try and misdirect the ‘new converts’ and force them under the old Law and totally try to derail what God was doing. (n0, I’m not trying to start a new covenant VS old covenant OR relevance of the Mosaic law in contemporary christianity conversation) But I am trying to say that they were persecuted by the leaders and ‘big wigs’ of their day.

    Maybe us being criticized or name called by others is a good sign we’re on the right track. Obviously we should see what our critics are saying to see if there is any validity and God is trying to speak to us through them. But all in all. We’ll always have critics. How we as Christians and The Church respond will show what we believe about Him who sent us.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I think that is a valid point. Jesus promised this to us.

  • http://twitter.com/fattychris Christopher

    It is easy to take offense to things people say. Just the other day I was rebuked by a high schooler over a misunderstanding. It was hard to take his comments, but by keeping my head on straight, we were able to work it out.

  • http://twitter.com/CissieGLynch Cissie Graham Lynch

    Thank you for these great reminders. It is very important to remind yourself of these, especially when you work in ministry and people are always watching.

  • Anonymous

    Great reminder. Perfect timing as I deal with an offense from this week. Thanks for making me think and mull over my response. God’s working on me here!

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  • Anonymous

    Great reminder. Perfect timing as I deal with an offense from this week. Thanks for making me think and mull over my response. God’s working on me here!

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Love this one. So practical and so needed. Make me think of horses, the kind that pull carriages. They wear blinders so that they can only see what is ahead of them versus the distractions on the side. I think we, as leaders and those choosing to make a difference, need to have blinders like that as well. Critics are distraction that try to stop us from getting where God wants us to go.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The example of a horse with blinders is brilliant. I am totally stealing that!

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Love this one. So practical and so needed. Make me think of horses, the kind that pull carriages. They wear blinders so that they can only see what is ahead of them versus the distractions on the side. I think we, as leaders and those choosing to make a difference, need to have blinders like that as well. Critics are distraction that try to stop us from getting where God wants us to go.

  • http://www.rowentree.com April Rowen

    Thank you for this post. I really appreciate the two key verses you mentioned (Matthew 18:7 and Proverbs 19:11). Thanks for the reminder that offense is inevitable – and a choice. =)

  • http://www.rowentree.com April Rowen

    Thank you for this post. I really appreciate the two key verses you mentioned (Matthew 18:7 and Proverbs 19:11). Thanks for the reminder that offense is inevitable – and a choice. =)

  • http://jennyrain.com JennyRain

    Realizing most of the time, people don’t mean to offend… and when they do, its often because we’ve hit a nerve in their life – maybe some pain or something that is unresolved. Compassion goes farther than offense anyday.

    And, it is just too darn exhausting to be offended all the time! :)

  • http://jennyrain.com JennyRain

    Realizing most of the time, people don’t mean to offend… and when they do, its often because we’ve hit a nerve in their life – maybe some pain or something that is unresolved. Compassion goes farther than offense anyday.

    And, it is just too darn exhausting to be offended all the time! :)

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    I’m working on that.

    God has been teaching me about what your blog discussed today. It’s a difficult lesson because you want to defend, but if you defend yourself to every critique you’ll spend the better part of the day awash in guilt and trying to please people.

    It’s not that I want them to like me, but peace sounds awfully nice. But in the past three years I’ve been experiencing criticism in ways that have really tested me and I’m learning to take the higher road. It’s not easy.

  • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

    I was once told by leadership above me that it is not as much about what happens to you as it is about how you respond. Mistakes happen. People offend you. You may have even offended others. If you stay in that mode, you will never move forward. People will see you as offendable. You will continue to offend others. It will hold you back from being all that you can be. Forgive the offense, move on, learn from it, grow your character – and the benefit will be yours to come.

  • http://christopherscottblog.typepad.com/blog/ Christopher Scott

    This post really resonates with me. As a leader of volunteers, many a time have I been criticized. The thing that makes it hard for me, is that I do what I do because I’m passionate about it. I work hard to serve others from my heart, and when someone criticizes me, it stings a lot.

    I try to realize there about about 50 good comments I receive for every critical statement flung my way.

    I’ve realized people criticize me for two reasons:
    1) They are jealous of my success, or
    2) They are hurting deep down, and they are portraying that hurt on me

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    You say you didn’t respond “in kind” to having been called a hypocrite—I suppose this means that you didn’t slap your accuser with a derogatory label in return—but did you respond at all in the sense of presenting a reasoned argument as to why, in your view, the accuser was mistaken in calling you a hypocrite?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I did not. It’s not the first time he has attacked me. Some people only become more aggressive when you engage them. The best thing to do in this case is ignore the offense and move on. Thanks.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

        I couldn’t resist googling the matter. I learned that you’re not merely a hypocrite, but a “paranoid hypocrite,” a “lying hypocrite,” an “egomaniacal hypocrite who deserves to be stoned,” and a “pompous weasel” to boot. Pretty impressive.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, I worked hard to garner those accolades!

  • http://twitter.com/williemacster William McPherson

    I always try to remember how many people I have judged and offended; always seems to keep me sober minded.

  • http://twitter.com/AroDass Dass

    Dear Michael, Thanks for the wonderful. I am person who really get offended very quickly. I too lead a small youth group where sometimes my leadership were questioned and insulted. My response usually was to retaliate it with strong response. Often i will not be peace at my heart. This blog really helped me with to assess myself in the light of the Word of God. Hope God can work in me to be more like HIM…

  • http://twitter.com/MattBeard Matt Beard

    It always helps me to think of this verse:

    Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. -Luke 6:26

    Leading well means telling people what they don’t want to hear sometimes. If I’m not willing to tell people what they NEED to hear instead of what they WANT to hear then I won’t do a very good job of leading them. Inevitably, this leads to some backlash but it isn’t as bad when you expect a little backlash.

    Great post!

  • http://twitter.com/NewEnglandHiker Roy Wallen

    We can, as you note, learn from “offenses” — they are often at least partly based in truth. Turning the other cheek, considering the source, and avoiding compounding offenses are principles we can all employ.

  • Gordon

    Ah, Mr. Hyatt had to write a blog post that gets to the heart of the matter. A much needed reminder – thank you.

  • Gordon

    Ah, Mr. Hyatt had to write a blog post that gets to the heart of the matter. A much needed reminder – thank you.

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  • http://www.themotherlode.wordpress.com Theresa Lode

    I’m just sorry you have to deal with this sort of stuff. I’ve watched a good friend go through tremendous slander and false accusation and handle it all with grace. But I know the pain is real too.
    I try to remember stuff like this is an invitation into the fellowship of suffering with Jesus. And why is it that in our human nature, we can have 100 people give us kudos but what we’ll remember is the one shrill critic at the back of the room?

  • Donna G

    Wow. A prayer answered. The school Board I sit on is going through a very difficult situation right now. I have been praying for wisdom and guidance in how I should respond. Think I will read this six or eight times over the next day or so and see what changes in my point of view–and in my heart. Thanks for being a vessel.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    Wow. Great post and so timely. I was almost offended this week when I was criticized and decried as a “heretic” on another blog. I started to respond, and it pretty quickly unfolded into an endless argument. This resonates so strongly with me and has been a theme in our ministry for a number of years. Jesus is the rock of offense, and he wants to offend us until we are no longer offendable. We are constantly asking ourselves: “Are you unoffendable?”

    The goal in this thinking is to reach the point where you are no longer offendable, where you can receive the truth of any criticism and let the rest roll off your back without it making you anxious. It’s interesting to read the New Testament and see Jesus give a hard saying or teaching, followed up with the comment, “Does this offend you?” He need what he was doing – he was trying to deconstruct their religiosity and wean them from their people-pleasing tendencies to become world-changers.

    Great, great post, Michael.

  • Windwalker49

    Having been given the gift of forgiveness, what helps me to not be offended is to remember that the offender is sowing seeds and will reap what s/he sows. Then I can have compassion for them, as Jesus did when he said “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Just think: the offenders are really doing something terrible to themselves, not to me!

  • http://twitter.com/JeremyStatton Jeremy Statton

    I recently received a very kind, sincere, helpful letter of rebuke from a friend about my blog. I knew that there had to be some friends who had concerns, but after 8 weeks nobody had mentioned anything. My friend telling me his thoughts is much more helpful than people not telling me the truth. Leaders can keep this mind. The truth is more helpful for everybody than a lie.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      So true. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Wow. I was convinced that that was a typo (“wounds” instead of “words”), but it wasn’t. Fascinating proverb! I like the second part; it really completes the verse:
        “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
        But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”

  • http://twitter.com/lovinglyyoursG Georgiana

    I try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. Having a spirit of empathy, helps understand why a person might take offense at something. It could be stemming from their culture, background or belief system that they feel so strongly about. It’s important not to judge but to have an open discussion to learn from each other.

  • Daniel Winters

    My favorite line to myself and those I mentor is, “…water off a duck’s back”. I try hard not to let it stick with varying levels of success.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevinthompson Kevin Thompson

    The flesh in us all wants to get even. I fight this urge often. Great post, Michael. I try to learn from every experience, actually communicate with the offending person to try to better understand and move on.

  • Joni Hannigan

    Great post. I really like your final point about choice. We all have the choice of whether to point out the obvious, which is that sometimes critics cannot know all the facts behind a decision. And we need to recognize there is “h” or history behind the critic’s complaints. Scripture says to not cast our pearls before swine–a truth I’ve claim since I was young. I’ve also learned by observing many leaders that those who are quick to feel offense are often insecure and quick to criticize others themselves. Though it smarts to do so sometimes, mostly I choose to understand the criticism and move on, even asking for ways I might improve, if that’s appropriate. This generally comes, I admit, when I have time to reflect on the criticism for at least a few minutes :)

  • http://www.church-membership-software.net/ Trevor

    This is definitely something I face often. For me, I think the most productive defense is to become good friends with people before they offend you.

    It sounds a bit hard to estimate who could do that, but if we think about it, we can often guess. It could be someone with an abnormally large mouth that just hasn’t gotten it yet that they can hurt. Our bosses and leaders certainly will all offend us at all times, because the flip side to leaders knowing they’ll draw fire is that followers tend to feel baited into generating that fire (not that the leader deserves it, but the feeling can be there). And, of course, people we care about can and probably will offend because we hang out with them and when people are together they will eventually come into some level of conflict.

    So, knowing who those are, I try to generate a good relationship with them before they offend. That way, I know their heart and no matter how angry I get, I know their heart is to serve God and even if I disagree with their methods and anger starts to lead me into offense, I can always remind myself they’re just trying to serve God. I don’t have to agree with how they do it, because knowing our goals are the same makes it easier to handle.

    Plus, for me, if I know they are trying to serve God and I am trying to serve God, then I feel the door is never closed on discussion. When I get offended, that’s typically because I feel a door of communication has been slammed in my face. But, if that door is open, I don’t mind a healthy disagreement.

  • Thomas Stanley

    One thing I do to avoid being offended is to separate my role from my self. I know that I have to make decisions, and act out of my personality. Just how I am not offended when children don’t like me when I put them in the corner. I am merely playing a role and they are reacting to my role. Same goes with the different leadership roles you play. You have to make choices that others wont necessarily like. Know they are reacting to your role, not you.

    • Vishal Chugh

      Thank you!!!

  • Ashley Musick

    My mentor and boss gave the best sermon/talk on offenses and it changed my life. I can’t even begin to describe how “being un-offendable” is crucial to my growth, peace of mind, and keeping healthy relationships. Great blog on a great topic!

  • PoulAndreassen

    The uniqueness of your article is indeed something that is influential in nature , excellent article.

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  • Anonymous

    Bill Bernbach, one of advertising’s greatest creative directors, carried on a piece of paper in his breast pocket, which read: “Maybe he’s right.”

    Although I do not carry such a paper myself, I always try to keep that saying with me.

    Sometimes offense is actually your pride feeling hurt, for realizing on the possibility of being wrong, or someone else proves out to be smarter. Humbleness is a competitive advantage, it allows you to realize about opportunities for improvement in yourself.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a wonderful, inspiring perspective. Thanks for taking time to express it.

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  • John Tabita


    Discovering your post today couldn’t have been more timely. I recently got the opportunity to blog about business topics for a fairly popular website. I have no problem when people disagree with my opinion and offer a reasonable argument as to why. But what has astounded me are the personal attacks. (One person told me that I had no soul because I was advocating B2B cold-calling.)

    The last post I wrote was controversial, and I knew it would generate a lot of heated debate. But the level of personal attacks really did discourage me. I suppose I’m going to have to dig into the scriptures you quoted. Thanks again.

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  • http://gregoryherman.net/about/ Gregory R Herman

    Think about your sin against God. No matter what the other person has done to you, it is nothing compared to how you have grieved the Almighty. The only time this truth has failed to keep me out of trouble is when I fail to consider this truth.

    • Dodili V Anilo15

      This is one of the best threads I have ever read in my whole life! What MEAT! Thank you to all of you who wrote in! I have learned so much from reading all these comments! God bless all of you!

      • Vishal Chugh

        Same here , Each single comment is full of so much wisdom  . Thank you so much to all of you!!! This post (and comments ) made my day !! :-)

  • Vishal Chugh

    Such a wonderful , powerful and much needed post i have ever come across . Thanks a tonn Michael . New  year greetings to you :-)

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  • http://twitter.com/justpeachiemenu Just Peachie

    Thank you. Continually revisiting this very thought.

  • Mashyda Fletcher

    This helped me today. So many offenses hit this past week, not just with me but other leaders around me. I’ve shared this post on my facebook page and I saw others share it themselves-so it seems we all needed some encouragement. God will always send support for what you are going through. Thank you!