For your daily walk and growth in Christ

What to do when the flesh gets defensive?

by | Jun 23, 2022

“…Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?’ But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” — Matthew 27:13, 14 ESV

At the time of this writing, I’ve recently been attacked by someone close to me, shocked to be accused of some things that really hurt me. I immediately felt the flesh well up within me. Can you relate? I’m betting you can!

I’ve been walking with some understanding of the Christ-Life Truth for many years now, and immediately knew the flesh was at work. I know something of who I am in Christ; I know that the flesh always responds out of me trying to meet my own needs – to be my own source; and I know most of my responses in the flesh are simply coping mechanisms – anger, defensiveness, avoidance, sarcasm, superiority – all in an attempt to compensate for the failure of the flesh to meet an underlying need. (As an example, I struggled to not add the word “falsely” in front of accused in the first line of this post! Whew! Snuck it in here!)

I struggled through that conversation, keenly aware of the Spirit trying to convince me of God’s sufficiency toward me as His son. In Him, I don’t have a need that must be met by me or anyone else – validating myself, proving someone wrong, attacking back stronger than I was attacked under the guise of “righteous indignation”…

I was also keenly aware of the flesh in me reacting to the flesh of my attacker – convincing me of how unfair, inaccurate, undeserved, and self-preserving it all was. Thoughts of my own self-defense and self-righteousness – whether they are accurate or not – demonstrated I had a need that I was trying to meet for myself: justification. Self-sourced living is always flesh. Make sense?

My frustration with my accuser was only overshadowed by my flustered feelings about my own immediate identity crisis! I couldn’t say much of anything. Finally just had to end the conversation and walk way. Since then, I’ve thought of a thousand fleshy reasons for their attack and even more fleshy responses from me. But in it all, I see that if this person is right about my choices, I can afford it, and if they are not right about me, I can afford them to have it wrong.

In Christ, you can afford to be wrong, and you can afford to be wronged.

Christ is enough for me. But it’s my choice whether to live from His “enoughness” or self-justify, defend, and exalt myself over another.

As I’ve worked to rest from being the solution to my own flesh, and instead sow to the Spirit, talking to God and relinquishing the outcomes, our conversation has highlighted five questions which clarify the flesh experienced and which challenge my faith to trust God for the emotional need He uncovers.

Maybe these questions will be helpful to you:

  1. How do you respond when attacked?
  2. What’s the need to be defensive based on?
  3. What is the truth of Christ’s sufficiency for you in that situation?
  4. What might God show you through it?
  5. What would it take to be available for what He’s doing in their life causing them to accuse you?

I’ve read and prayed through through John 19:1-11, and I am encouraged by Jesus’ confidence in God’s sovereignty and sufficiency. You should read it and be encouraged, too.

Remember your identity is from Him by grace, so you can afford not to be affirmed by anyone else.

You can afford, by His grace, for flesh to be revealed, because the flesh is in you, but it’s not you.

And as I pray for you this week, and covet your prayer for me, I trust in His perfect work in you, as He uses all things to bring you into a deeper awareness of and dependence on His Life in and through you.

Can you relate to this struggle?

When or how have you witnessed within yourself the struggle between flesh and Spirit?

What does it look like for you to sow to the Spirit instead of trying to self-improve?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

ridiculously graced…

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  1. Kat Kirker

    I’ve always needed to feel safe, aspecilly now where I live, it’s very difficult having to deal with homeless people because they deal with crime, drugs, and mental health, and I grew up in my childhood with such people in Voc. Schooling, and now, the enemy has been useing this to remind me of past traumas! Please pray that I would overcome all this in Christ! The overcomer! Bless you Mike and the Grace Crew! 🕊💞📖👑🙏

  2. Debby Bolser

    Mike, I needed this, as my flesh got defensive and I reacted in my flesh. (Of course I apologized the next morning). Got to learn how to respond in the spirit and not react in the flesh. I printed this out to be reminded.

  3. Pat Fletcher

    Hi Mike! This is Pat Fletcher from Grace Life Fellowship. I’ve recently experienced a situation different from yours, but the need to recognize the flesh in it was the same. Thank you so much for being so transparent and allowing Father to teach through you.
    Also, I hardly ever respond, but please know how much your words mean to me and that you are making a difference. Would love to see you soon. Praying for you and yours.

  4. Aleta McCrary

    TY Mike for transparency! I not only relate but appreciate how the questions lead me to assessments of both self & Friendships. The War is Real! Feeding my flesh
    is so deceiving, then comes the “Dominio Effect”… which
    does not yield self improvement. SELF improvement is a joke. I have to sow to the spirit in order to reflect my Savior. Looking at things through His lens reminds me that I can “afford” anything! . Knowing I am complete in CHRIST, I rest in His ” ridiculous grace” & accept (sometimes reluctantly) that I need to give others this same grace I treasure.

  5. Mary

    Mike, my heart hurts for you, dear brother! At the same time I so appreciate your transparency in sharing, your vulnerability, your insight as to how best to handle such encounters.

  6. Dana Daigle

    Great truths! Why aren’t they on your fb page? I shared this one on my page because so many of us need to be reminded – Jesus IS enough!

    Thanks for your insights!

  7. Sue Stoll

    That’s very painful to be accused. And Jesus knows all about that from his own experience. So much goes through my mind about this topic. I know from my own experience that I can give up my own good reputation for what others have accused me of. God knows me and understands me like no other. That gives me peace , I have learned to ask is any of this accusations true? If so I can adjust and learn from it. Thankfully the accuser apologized to me after they found out the truth about me and the one who was spreading untruths about me. It was a very painful grieving experience that the Lord worked for good. I have forgiven the person who caused the trouble and the Lord has given me lots of love for them. I am still cautious around the other person who apologized to me. I feel like I was free to move on with a life of peace not to be involved with them anymore. I do pray for them when the Lord puts them on my heart. I have also been open to truth if I’m in the wrong because it’s my desire to live by truth and not error. So I desire to be teachable from the Holy Spirit. It’s a growing process that I’m thankful for.
    But when accused it sure does hurt. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace is what the Lord has impressed on my mind recently and I am very glad for that. I felt led to share this with you. I pray it helps. Praying for you may the Lord continue to minister to you especially in these trial times. 💕🙏🏻💕

  8. Ann Wilson

    A year ago, I was verbally attacked by someone very close to me, also. I tried to make things better, but they only got worse. God told me to “Be still” and let him fight the battle for me. That hasn’t always been easy. But God has given me many blessings over the past year as I obeyed him. I feel at peace as I leave the results up to him.

  9. Vic Woodward

    Mike, thank you for sharing vulnerably in this post. My wife and I were just talking with a young couple last night about difficult family relationships and triggers that occur in encounters that lead to fleshy responses. We talked about boundaries too that help us stand in integrity and offer God’s protective love.


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