The Difference Between Tolerating and Overlooking an Offense

Tolerating Sin: This post answers the question whether these two things are the same and if not how they are different. Click to find out more! #boundaryviolations #tolerateoffenses #forgivenessinmarriage #forgiveness #marriagematters #messymarriage #overlookinginsults #boundariesinmarriage

In a day and age that cries out for tolerance, the idea of “tolerating our spouses” can easily seep into our mindset in marriage as well. At least, it did for my marriage!

Tolerating Sin: This post answers the question whether these two things are the same and if not how they are different. Click to find out more! #boundaryviolations #tolerateoffenses #forgivenessinmarriage #forgiveness #marriagematters #messymarriage #overlookinginsults #boundariesinmarriage

This notion sounds so noble and even Christlike on the surface. In fact, there’s one verse in particular that seems to support this idea, pointing every Christ-follower in the direction of tolerating. The verse is found in Proverbs 12:6 …

“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”

I don’t know of anyone who wants to act like a fool. So this is a verse and idea we generally perk up and listen to.

And though the word “prudent” has fallen out of the everyday vernacular, it still represents the wise idea of being cautious.

So, I’d like to address these two questions . . .

  1. How is it wise to be cautious when someone insults us?
  2. Is tolerating sin the same thing as overlooking an offense?

There are four main reasons that it is wise to be cautious here . . .

1. It is wise to be prudent and cautious—by overlooking an insult—because we want that same grace extended to us when we sin.

2. If we are too quick and careless with our anger toward our offender (in many cases, who is our spouse), we might hinder that person’s willingness to repent and apologize.

3. We also run the risk of developing bitterness, whenever we begin to keep a record of our offender’s/mate’s wrongs.

4. Finally, and most importantly, if we expect God to forgive us of the sins we commit, then we cannot withhold grace from those who offend us.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

How tolerating sin is NOT the same thing as overlooking an offense . . . 

Even though there is some measure of acceptance involved in tolerating, it really implies being resigned to someone’s choices and beliefs. You basically keep a hands off approach, out of concern for your own welfare and freedom of choice.

In contrast, overlooking an offense is not about giving an offender a free pass, nor looking out for “number one,” while doing so.

It is about releasing an offender to God, the ultimate judge of sin in all of our lives (Romans 2:1-16).

Also, overlooking an insult is never about enabling someone to continue to offend or sin. Instead, it is about extending the grace we’ve received from God back to our offenders.

Who knows? Surely, by extending grace, we might draw our offender(s) much quicker toward repentance and right choices, than if we were quick to accuse them.

It’s also important to note that this verse in Proverbs is speaking specifically about insults and not so much about major boundary violations. Major violations involve a more complex approach, depending on God and godly people for clarity on how to proceed.

Above all, we must look to Christ for the difference between tolerating and overlooking sin.

He never tolerated sin when it came to the unrepentant, like the Pharisees. He called them out on their self-righteous and sinful attitudes and behaviors time after time, giving them chance after chance to repent (Matthew 23).

The Bible also makes it clear just how quick Jesus was to forgive those who were brokenhearted and remorseful over their sins.

The good news is that He is just as quick to forgive the repentant today and everyday!

Above all, we must remember that Christ had every reason not to forgive or overlook sin, since He lived a sinless life. He had and has the right to point out, convict and even condemn sin in people’s lives because He is our perfect God.

We, on the other hand, never have that right, but rather the privilege and responsibility of extending His grace to others. And sometimes this grace needs to be shown when it is right to overlook an offense.

Finally, we must remember that overlooking an insult is not about agreeing with what has been done against us or others. It is about forgiving our offenders—something we can do immediately and, often, simply in the confines of our hearts.

Of course, there will be times when God will call us to hold our offender(s) accountable in life, rather than overlooking an insult. But this is only after we’ve taken the “plank” of sin out of our own eye.

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:5

Bottom Line: If we ever hope to love and forgive our mates like Christ loves and forgives us, we need to rise to a much higher standard than tolerating them and their sins. I want to rise to this superior level each day, and hope that you’ll join me in this effort as well!

Let’s recommit to tolerating loving and forgiving our spouses this day and everyday! 🙂

[bctt tweet=”Want to join me in an important challenge that will help you love your spouse ‘warts and all’? Then click to find out how! #loveandforgiveness” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

As I’ve mentioned recently, I’m pulling out one of my old “Sloppy Joe Time” videos from the vault each week. This time I’m sharing the video that has gained more views than any of my other videos, Sloppy Joe Time or not! If you’re not aware of my Messy Marriage YouTube channel, then I hope you’ll click the link and subscribe today!

But before heading there, please take a few minutes to click on the video below to hear more of my thoughts on this all-important topic . . .




Have you been tolerating your spouse’s offenses rather than overlooking and/or forgiving your mate?


If so, what will it take for you to change this unhealthy pattern to one of love and forgiveness instead?


Here are some other lovely linkups I join Inspire Me MondayKingdom BloggersLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementGrace and Truth Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday


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29 responses to “The Difference Between Tolerating and Overlooking an Offense”

  1. Beth,
    Thank you for expounding on the difference between tolerating sinful behavior and overlooking an insult. There’s a saying that goes, “Whatever we tolerate, we condone.” I found this true in my first marriage when I tolerated verbal and emotional abuse. I gave “permission” for my ex-spouse to continue acting that way. In my, now healthy, marriage, I am learning what it is to take the high road and overlook an insult and my husband is showing me the same grace. A marriage works best when both partners take the plank out of their own eye before launching insults. As always, an excellent post!
    Bev xx


    1. I think I’ve heard that quote before, Bev. In fact, Dr. Phil says something similar, “We teach people how to treat us.” I like your quote better, but they both are getting at the fact that “tolerating” can be a very unhealthy practice, even though it avoids conflict for a time. I’m so glad you’ve escaped that abusive marriage and now enjoy a healthy, respectful relationship with your husband. That’s not typically the case, so it tells me you’ve done your “heart-work” before remarrying. And yes, and “Amen!” to taking the plank out of our eye. This gives us the clarity we need to either say something or overlook an offense. Thanks so much for encouraging me, sweet friend! Love ya!


  2. I’ve been guilty of only “tolerating” my spouse on so many occasions, often in the interests of not rocking the boat. And sometimes the boat has to rock a little for true growth to happen in a marriage journey. Sometimes I still have trouble finding the right balance between being a peacemaker/overlooking offenses and speaking up when it’s called for. I think this is a common issue in Christian marriages, and your article is full of timely wisdom and common sense for building strong relationships. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Yes, Nicole! You’ve hit the nail on the head with what typically is our motive for “tolerating”–we don’t want to rock the boat. And rocking the boat may be the best thing, not only for our marriage, but also for each other. There have been so many rough edges that I’m glad my husband gently pointed out to me, so that I could grow in my faith and be better at relating to him as well. I have trouble sometimes too with that distinction. But really utilize prayer when that is the case. In fact, I’m prayer processing a hurt (not marriage-related) right now that I know will not only bring me healing, but also clarity on whether to address this issue with my offenders or not. Thank you for your kind words and friendly presence here at my space!


  3. Yes, I heard the sharp remark
    that came beneath your breath.
    But it’s not a call to which I’ll hark;
    I don’t need that kind of death.
    You didn’t really mean it,
    or, well, perhaps you did.
    I will, however, see fit
    to not match the devil’s bid.
    Satan wants to drive a wedge
    through our minor hurts,
    an itch instead of swinging sledge,
    and love itself deserts.
    I was pained, yes, but I see his game,
    and offer my injury to the Name.


    1. Great insight through your prose, Andrew! We truly do need to realize that we are constantly being tempted to hold grievances against our spouses. I, for one, and it seems you’re with me on this one too, will NOT take the bait! At least, try to recover quickly with the Lord’s help when I do. Thank you for stopping by and engaging your fascinating brain that pours out wisdom wherever you go! Hugs and prayers!


  4. What a valuable post! I appreciate you clarifying the meaning of prudence. That really makes a difference in how we understand the proverbs.

    Like you, I believed tolerance was equivalent to Christlikeness – for far too long. When I finally realized how it was actually hindering our marriage, it took courage to confront. There’s such a misconception in the Body of Christ that confrontation is a bad thing. But, done right, it’s a loving thing, an extension of grace and an opportunity for growth and healing to take place. Overlooking an offense as you’ve described it here is peaceMAKING at it’s finest. Tolerance is merely peaceKEEPING and is not a permanent or healthy solution to an ongoing issue.


    1. I like this peaceMAKING vs peaceKEEPING distinction a lot!


    2. I couldn’t agree with you more, Jana! Addressing conflicts can be one of the best things we do, if handled in the right spirit and with our offender’s welfare in mind. It all goes askew when we focus on our own hurts above all else! And I, like David above, agree that you’re right about it being the difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping. I certainly want to be a peacemaker and sometimes that means going toward conflict, but only after taking the plank out of my own eye. When I do that, I can much more effectively make peace rather than tolerating a “cold war.” Thank you for stopping by, encouraging me and adding to the conversation, my friend!


  5. I really appreciate you making the distinction between forgiveness and tolerance. There is a fine line here, I think most of it is a difference in the attitude of our heart. Tolerance is often called forgiveness, from the other persons perspective it can be hard to know; am I being forgiven or tolerated? It’s a heart issue! Knowing when to speak up can be an even finer line, this really needs to be led by the Lord. Loved your video! Many Thanks!


    1. You’re so right, Debra. We must look to the Lord to help us determine both of these paths–whether to overlook an offense or to address an issue. Our hearts are what need to be examined first and foremost before ever speaking a word or zipping our lip! Lol! Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation!


  6. I’ve been reading Emotional Agility by Dr. Susan David, and it’s helped me understand this concept more than I used to. The word ‘tolerate’ is so negative in my mind–I want to overlook my hubby’s propensity to leave the muffin tin in the sink for four days and lovingly clean it myself without anger or thoughts of payback. Relationships are precious, and we need to treat them as such.


    1. Yes, I agree. Tolerating is not the positive word that our culture has made it out to be. And I join you in seeking to overlook any ways that my husband might insult or inconvenience me. To get upset about those kinds of petty matters really reveals more about my heart than it does about my husband’s. I’m so glad you’ve found a way to extend grace to your dirty-muffin-tin-leaving husband! Lol! And I’m sure that pays big dividends in his heart toward you! Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation, my friend!


  7. I think being tolerant gives me time – a bit of breathing space in which I can remember to forgive and think more lovingly (of my wife in particular). Tolerance is important because without it this second step is not possible.


    1. If by tolerating you mean “overlooking,” David, then I agree. It’s just that I view tolerating in a very negative way–like keeping a tight lid on a steaming pot. It’s bound to overflow when I simply resign myself to my mate’s insulting or insensitive choices. I want to extend grace–overlook or look toward God–when he does something minor against me. If he’s committed some major offense against me, I want to look toward God in that too. I want to make sure I’m taking that “breathing space” to pray and seek the Lord’s guidance not only regarding my husband’s wrong actions, but about my heart as well. Almost always my husband’s wrong actions trigger me to sin, so doing a heart check is what gives me the best chance of calming down and experiencing God’s love and peace.


  8. Oh, how true this is: “4. Finally, and most importantly, if we expect God to forgive us of the sins we commit, then we cannot withhold grace from those who offend us.”

    Thank you for reminding us today!


    1. Yes, that’s truly the bottom line, isn’t it, Rebecca?! If all else above escapes our notice, that one truth and challenge must be where we land. Otherwise, we will grow bitter and self-righteous in our lives and marriages. Thank you for stopping by and joining the conversation, my friend!


  9. God really spoke to me through your words today, Beth! I’d never seen this translation about a fool “showing his annoyance.” I have been far too quick to show my annoyance with those closest to me for longer than I care to admit to! This morning I was praying for God to search me and show me if I have offended him in any ways, and he used your words to give me a gentle nudge of conviction! Thank you! I don’t want to be an annoyed fool!


    1. Isn’t it funny how a difficult moment in life can make some biblical principle or truth come alive to us in vivid and heartbreaking, as well as inspiring ways, Stacey! I’m so glad God used these words to help you. Truthfully, writing this helped clarify things for me as well. God is always so good to do that for me, and I bet for you too! Hugs to you, my friend!


  10. I appreciate this post and am with Anita where I want to have a right heart when moving on, so my heart matches the outward pushing through/hard work. Hope that made sense but yeah–just where my mind went while reading.


    1. Yes, Meghan! That’s truly where we all need to land. I think that’s why God’s word tells us to overlook, because we always need to pause before reacting. And if we cannot shake something, then we know more heart work needs to be done to clarify our next step, whether that step is to simply change our own hearts or, going one step further, to address an issue with our offenders. But we always need to bring these hurts to the Lord for His peace and perspective no matter which way we turn. Thanks for stopping by, my friend!


  11. Beth, so many need to hear the topics you share and give guidance in!! I dealt with this for about 7yrs in my marriage on the roller-coaster of addiction. It was by far the most devastating thing I had endured. I tolerated it because I didn’t know what to do. It was a lonely road. When we tolerate something of this level, the resentment eventually eats way at your soul. My depression got worse, my resentment had me so angry. I learned the hard way, what not to do. When I finally found hope, the turning point of serious boundaries set and all in God’s grace, he was healed and our marriage eventually restored. It takes time but doing it God’s way is ALWAYS best! #worthbeyondrubies


  12. Thanks for distinguishing between overlooking an offense and tolerating sin. They definitely are not the same thing. But they both are hard! 🙂 Thankful that we have the Lord to lead the way.


  13. Such a great point! Visiting you today from the worth beyond rubies link up.


  14. Thank you for pointing out the subtle, yet important differences between tolerating sin and overlooking an offense. I look at my Amish neighbors as a wonderful example of forgiveness. They take your #4 to heart; “Finally, and most importantly, if we expect God to forgive us of the sins we commit, then we cannot withhold grace from those who offend us.”


  15. This is why the Christian walk requires wisdom and discernment; if not, based on our situations we would misapply a number of scriptures. But God is bigger than our situations and always wants us to look to him first.
    Your practical assessment makes sense and points us to know more about God as we learn about ourselves.

    Stopping by from a Friday linkup.


  16. Jonathan Grandt Avatar

    There is indeed a difference between tolerating something and overlooking it.
    Tolerating says “This is acceptable”
    Overlooking says “This is not worth my anger”

    Yet there is still a clear distinction between overlooking an offense and “Forgiveness”.

    Today people confuse Overlooking with Forgiving.

    Biblical forgiveness, especially if we are going to say, “We forgive like Christ forgave” means:

    1. Sin must happen. Not merely an annoyance.
    2. Sin must be addressed by the person offended.
    3. Sin must be acknowledged by the offender.
    4. The offender must repent
    5. The offended must agree to remove the offense from between them and remember it no more.

    Jesus gives clear instruction on forgiveness. He says “if your brother sins against you… Rebuke him… if he repents… forgive him.”

    He also says, “Father forgive them…” not “I forgive you” from the cross. This request is fulfilled in Acts when Peter tells the Jews they killed the author of life. They are deeply cut and say what shall we do? Peter tells them to repent and be forgiven.

    Forgiveness is not overlooking an offense. Forgiveness is not letting go of resentment. Forgiveness is the reconciling work of the offender accepting the repentance of the offender and casting the offense into the sea of forgetting.


    1. Jonathan Grandt Avatar

      Pardon my auto correct. Should say:

      “ Forgiveness is the reconciling work of the offendED accepting the repentance of the offender and casting the offense into the sea of forgetting


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