At some point in life, everyone gets hurt. Maybe a friend has wronged you by saying something negative behind your back. It could be that you have been cheated in business, or in some way treated unfairly by a neighbor or family member. Inside, there are feelings of frustration and anger. You may go through a period of feeling as though your heart could break. You desire retaliation; justice.
Although such feelings are common, they are not the best way to respond. In fact, the Bible says much about how to react when you are wronged. Let’s examine scripture in light of some very common approaches to being wronged.
Some people suffer in silence. Instead of doing anything at all, they just stew in frustration. Before long, unresolved frustration and hurt can turn into bitterness. When this happens, it is usually the bitter person who is hurt most. Proverbs 19:11 speaks to this approach, saying, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.” If you can simply forgive and forget a wrong, it is to your credit and can prevent much self-inflicted heartache later.
Another approach to being wronged is to complain to a third party. Hurt feelings desire sympathy. An offended sense of justice seeks allies. Often people justify involving other people because they feel the need for someone to talk to. Sometimes there may indeed be a need for godly advice. However, when a third party is brought in only to reinforce your side of things and share your anger, the outcome is unproductive. Proverbs 17:9 says this: “He who covers an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” It is not a wise course of action to involve people in a matter which does not directly affect them.
Other people desire retribution. They seek justice as they conceive it applying to their particular case. If they have been hurt, they desire the offender to suffer as well. If they have lost something valuable, the one who caused its loss should be punished. This may go well beyond a sense of fairness, becoming vengeance, in which punishment is beyond what is normally called for and results in severe damage to the offender.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” In Jesus’ profound understanding of God’s will, love trumps justice. Reconciliation is better than vengeance.
None of these responses really achieves either the purposes of God or the very best for the person who has been wronged. These things are achieved through following Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18:15. “If your brother sins against you go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” In other words, God’s way of bringing blessing to both parties is for the offended person to seek out the offender in order to work toward reconciliation. Here are some of the amazing results of such a course of action:
- It prevents a relatively small issue from developing into something very serious.
- It keeps the situation from involving those who are not directly related to its resolution.
- It can begin the healing of major hurts and begin the resolution of serious damages.
- It may lay the foundation for a new and deep relationship with the offender.
- It always results in a clear conscience for the one who genuinely seeks to honor God and be a source of reconciliation.
As long as I am making lists, here is some further biblical advice for when you seek resolution.
- Go in humility. Remember, there may be a point of view to the situation you have not yet considered.
- Go determined to seek true justice. If you have been a party to the wrong, admit it and ask for forgiveness. If restitution needs to be made, do your best to make it.
- Go in love. That is, never go to the person with the sole idea of setting them straight or giving them a piece of your mind. Certainly never seek the humiliation of others. Rather seek the wholeness and welfare of all concerned. If you do, you will be like God because that is how he deals with us.
One more issue remains to be mentioned: what if your efforts are not well-received? If you truly have made the effort to seek peace and reconciliation, then the problem is not yours. You cannot force others either to forgive you or to admit their wrong. Pray for them and continue to be open for reconciliation should circumstances and attitudes change. You will have one very precious thing regardless: the deep satisfaction which comes from having done things God’s way.