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BY THEIR FRUITS: TENSION AND DISLIKE OFTEN HAVE THEIR ROOTS IN A 'SPIRIT OF UMBRAGE'

When we ask for nothing (in the way of unselfishness), we get everything. When we don't mind being small, God makes us large. Grace comes when we don't take umbrage -- and when we neutralize dislike with love.

Let's focus on this later point: "umbrage," a plague in our time -- a distortion by Satan.

In the dictionary, umbrage is defined as "a feeling of pique or resentment at some often fancied slight or insult."

Look at the word "fancied": It means that folks often imagine insult where it doesn't exist.

The devil delights in doing this -- manufacturing slights and twisting reality.

Never let umbrage into a marriage!

Do you take offense easily? Does everything get under your skin? Do you feel someone is out to get you -- that a certain person is trying to belittle you, or otherwise cause you harm (or even that everyone is)?

That's not to say that such things don't happen! There are people who are "out to get us." The Lord said, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you" (John 15:19).

But we live in an era when the devil seeks to divide. It is a tremendous sign of the times. It's also galling. It happens with friends. It happens with co-workers. It happens with family members. It happens with in-laws.

Do you know someone who is always looking for you to say or do the wrong thing, to slight them, to cause insult?

These are some signs: Creating a rigid system of communication. Setting a standard for when a person should contact you. Defining a relationship (by your definition). Hovering over every single word in a conversation.

Focusing on every reaction.

How many holidays and dinner parties (and weddings and funerals) has this destroyed?

Folks take umbrage for many reasons, none very good: They do so when they feel inferior, when they are tense, when they can't forgive a past slight, when they are worldly (and you are not), and especially: when they are jealous. The spirit of umbrage is rooted in pride.  It is also rooted in anger. Angry people take umbrage, often for no reason. We get in a cycle of umbrage and can't get out -- but for a burst of "irrational kindness": sending the person with whom we have conflict our best wishes even if they don't deserve it!

Umbrage means "offense, resentment or annoyance," points out one preacher. It is something you "take" and so you ingest it. Says another: "When we perceive ourselves to be insulted and take umbrage take offense we are forced to carry it around inside of us. The longer we fuel our anger over the insult, the heavier umbrage weighs within us until it becomes an anchor, dragging us down and crushing our spirit."

In the word umbrage is the word "rage." Umbrage escalates. It eats away at you. Proverbs 18:19 tells us "a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city." In Luke 7:23 it says, "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended." The extent of umbrage is a measure of carnality.

When we take umbrage, we seek vindication instead of reconciliation -- and so we stall spiritually.

In James 1:19-20, we are counseled with the words, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." When you seek revenge, you are fighting fire with fire and nothing is put out; there is just a larger flame.

"Taking umbrage" makes a person feel "above" the "offending" person (even if that victory is fleeting, for umbrage always bites back). Someone has it out for you and looks for any excuse to take umbrage -- thus justifying their uneasiness, jealousy, or dislike. We know people by their fruits, and most of us are in a gray area. We are a mixed bag. There is no "black and white." We produce some good fruit, some not-so-good fruit, some that may be rotten.

Taking umbrage is of the last category.

In the end, we must be fruit inspectors and look at the result of being around a certain person. The next time you have trouble in the presence of someone, watch to see if you -- or that person -- is "taking umbrage." Often, the sensation is electrical (and the jolt can last for days). Cast the spirit out. Ignore it and move on.

Are you brought down, or edified? Do you feel peace -- or tension? Is there a radical shift in mood? Do you feel like every single move is being watched? Does friendliness evolve quickly into slights that you replay later? Is it a strain to be around someone?

All these traits can tell us what is going through a person's mind and what they may be projecting toward us, or what we are projecting. To take constant offense is to radiate darkness. We know of situations where family members have been doing this for decades -- reverting to slights that are all but ancient!

Umbrage is a spirit that haunts the generations.

By recognizing this, forgiving, and praying for whoever is taking umbrage (by bursting forth with love toward whomever), we neutralize the acid -- no matter how many times it occurs (which is why Jesus said it is necessary to forgive "seventy times seven").

When you die your forgiveness -- your bursts of kindness -- will await you like a bouquet while here on earth the attacks of umbrage will fade.

[resources: Forgiveness is Divine and The God of Miracles]

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