When to Overlook A Fault: 12 Questions

Here are some questions to ask to help us decide if we are to “cover” or “overlook” an offense.

Yes, some offenses require repentance before granting forgiveness, but there are other offenses that must be overlooked if we are to survive in any relationship (1 Peter 4:8; Prov. 10:12; 12:16; 19:11). But when to do what?

 

“When you have been sinned against you have two options: to either lovingly cover or lovingly confront.” (Jim Newcomer)

But how do we know the right option?

Yes, some offenses require repentance before granting forgiveness, but there are other offenses that must be overlooked if we are to survive in any relationship (1 Peter 4:8; Prov. 10:12; 12:16; 19:11). But when to do what?

Here are some questions to ask to help us decide if we are to “cover” or “overlook” an offense.

1. What is my tendency? If I tend to default to confrontation, have I pushed myself harder to cover? If my tendency is to cover, have I sufficiently considered the need to confront?

2. Am I just trying to avoid confrontation? If my motive is primarily to avoid unwanted confrontation, then covering may simply be the easy option, not the right one.

3. Am I just trying to avoid addressing problems on my side? I may be motivated to cover rather than confront, if confronting would mean addressing faults on my side too.

4. How important is this? If the offense is small enough, we may overlook?

5. How clear is this? If my grievance is more about personal preferences and cultural norms than clear moral right and wrong, then overlooking is the right choice.

6. Does the person show a pattern of this kind of behavior? If it’s just a one-off and out-of-character, then it is easier to cover than if this has become a regular habit.

7. Will overlooking the fault hurt or damage the other person? Am I doing the person more harm than good by failing to help them address moral failings.

8. Have other people been hurt or damaged? If it’s just me, then covering is more likely to be an option than if others have also been offended.

9. Does this have the potential to spread? If the offending attitude, words, or actions, might make others do similar things, then confronting rather than covering is the answer.

10. What else is going on in this person’s world? Are there stress factors which may mitigate the fault? A related question is “What’s going on in my world?” Am I under stress and overreacting to minor issues, or, alternatively, avoiding issues because I’m too stressed?

11. Are there bigger faults to confront first? Sometimes tackling a small issue can result in a person refusing to hear us on far bigger issues.

12. Was it intentional? If the person committed the offense deliberately and with full knowledge of doing wrong, then confronting is required, not covering.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.