Overlooking an offense


Have you ever heard this saying?"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."

This ancient Proverb is one that I find more than a little challenging. I don't know about you, but I'm not good at overlooking offenses.  I’ve never been a terribly patient person, and I find it especially challenging to think that wisdom and patience are the answer when someone does me wrong.   To be candid, when someone offends me, my natural response is one of three:

  • call out the person who offended me
  • call someone else and gossip about whether or not I'm justified in feeling offended (and find another person to call if the first person doesn't agree that an atrocity has been done to me)
  • stew in quiet anger and nurse a silent grudge toward the person who offended me

As you can see, "overlooking" the offense isn't one of my top three responses, which is why the Proverb rattles me.

If it's "wisdom" that gives me patience to overlook an offense, then the implication is that it's foolish to show impatience.  Even with my limited reasoning skills, I find it easy to see that this proverb is calling me a fool when I go with one of my top three responses.


However much I'd like to ignore/argue/dismiss this Proverb, the second line pulls me back in.  How can it be to my "glory" or "credit" to overlook an offense?

What does that even mean?

I wasn’t immediately sure, but since it sounds like an interesting reward, I decided to test the Proverb to see if it were true.

I wrestled with the thought of  "overlooking an offense" by first thinking about times when I have felt insulted either by my friends or in my work environment.  Lots of examples came to mind.

The times when I feel slighted are, in their particulars, as varied as any circumstance you can imagine.  However, I realized that if I pull up to 10,000 feet and look down on the insults and injuries that bother me (perceived or real), they usually fall into just a few categories.  I feel most insulted when I am

  • judged
  • misunderstood
  • ignored

When I think about times I feel judged, I wonder if I’m better off following my knee-jerk reaction and engaging with the person doing the judging or just letting it go (as the Proverb says). 

I've learned that if someone is going to slide me a judgmental glance or derogatory word, then methinks it best that I just get over it. 


Well, to do otherwise allows someone else to define who I am.  When one of our  kids is upset because "So-and-so said that I'm dumb,"  we  typically ask..."Well, are you?" 


"Then don't worry about it...and don't let them tell you who you are."  Case closed.  Others don't define who you are.  In the face of ill (or ill-informed) definitions of who you are, we best, as my Admiral friend Stanley says, “give it a wide berth” and overlook it.

In those instances when I am misunderstood, is it better to get all flustered and defensive (often resulting in escalating emotions) or just let the impression stand for the short run until cooler minds can bring clarity to the misunderstanding?  I think the latter.  “Defensiveness” never brings understanding.  Things like clear explanations, good questions, and healthy conversation bring understanding.  In short, I need to quit playing the victim and acting as if I'm the only person ever misunderstood from time to time.  No one is ever perfectly understood; why do I expect to be the first?  In the moments when someone doesn't "get me," it's better to show a little more grace, patience, and some strategy on how to be clearer on who I am or what I'm trying to say or do.

Finally, how am I supposed to respond when I’m ignored?  I can either fight for a seat at the table or I can wait my turn.  I can be a squeaky wheel that may get “the grease,” but I will, inevitably, be a nuisance to everyone around me.  We all know the people who insist on being included in every conversation and who want their voice heard in every discussion.  I don’t know why I feel like I deserve attention, but that kind of self-centeredness is just plain ugly, and it would definitely be to my credit to let that go.


And so I’m back to the place where I find myself wanting to be wise by being patient...even when I feel offended.

I just hope it doesn’t take me too much practice time to get it down!