Like many of you, this is my favorite time of year. Here in Arkansas, the summers are so hot and humid that we greet fall like the appearance of a long-lost friend. It’s cool and dry, the sky shines in bright blue, the leaves are changing, and football season is in full swing. It’s the best time of the year to play golf. It feels fresh.
There’s one thing I don’t like much about fall, though, and that is Halloween. Oh, I used to love trick-or-treating as a kid, and I enjoyed taking my daughters through the neighborhood when they were little. But now I’m tired of a day that’s become an annual celebration of blood and gore.
I’m tired of people dressing up as zombies and serial killers. I’m tired of the all the ads for new horror movies and the nonstop television showings of film series like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street and Saw and Jeepers Creepers and Final Destination. Every year I’m glad Halloween is over.
So here’s the deal I make each year with the calendar: I will choose to overlook Halloween as long as I can enjoy the fall.
If you think about it, you make choices like that regularly. You choose to overlook a flaw, or an offense, because something else is more important.
You choose to overlook—to look past—a candidate’s faults in an election because you believe in everything else he or she stands for.
You overlook a football coach’s mistakes as long as he wins games.
You overlook your dog’s disobedience and chewing holes in the furniture and jumping up on guests and the fact that he’s still not house-trained after a year because … well, I’m still trying to figure that one out …
In relationships, one of the most important principles for resolving conflicts or differences is overlooking an offense. The more you get to know someone, the more you understand his or her strengths and weaknesses. If this is an important, long-term relationship, you choose what you will overlook so that you can keep the relationship strong.
In the months after Merry and I were married, I slowly began to realize that my new spouse was … how do I say this … slightly less than perfect. We had little arguments about keeping up our home. Sometimes she said things that made me angry. I discovered she could be selfish and unreasonable.
Some of our conflicts took some time and effort to resolve. But I also learned—slowly, I admit—to ignore or pass over some perceived offenses. This is the principle described in Proverbs 19:11: “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
I recently completed the Peacemaker Ministries course, “Resolving Everyday Conflict,” and this principle of overlooking an offense was one of the first points that was taught. We were challenged to ask, “Is this worth fighting over?” Quoting from the participant guide, overlooking an offense is appropriate when:
- The offense has not “created a wall between you and the other person or caused you to feel differently toward him or her for more than a short period of time.”
- The offense is not causing “serious harm” to God’s reputation, to others, or to the offender.
- The offense “is not part of a destructive pattern.”
It’s not necessary to overlook all offenses. Instead, “ask God to help you discern and overlook minor wrongs.”
In other words, choose your battles wisely. If you want to build a marriage that will last a lifetime, you’ll find that many offenses are not worth fighting over.
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