Overcoming Sin through Christ: Hypersensitivity, Oversensitivity, Touchiness

  Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Hypersensitivity, Oversensitivity, Touchiness

Have you known of a friend, family member or working associate who is so sensitive that we are forced to say that he or she is hypersensitive or oversensitive?  Sometimes we refer to such a person as being touchy. Maybe you recognize this sin in your own life and personality.  Indeed, it can be difficult to get close to such a person.

The hypersensitive person is “excessively sensitive.”  For instance, the person may be “hypersensitive to criticism.”[1]  He or she is “highly or excessively sensitive.”[2]  We’ve all heard of a person who is so sensitive that one must “walk on egg shells” when around him or her.   We also are acquainted with another word—Touchiness. We’ve probably all known a person who was “touchy” and difficult to deal with.  Touchiness is a common but disagreeable sin that we need to avoid—for our own sake, for the sake of those who interact with us, and especially for the sake of God.   Touchy literally means “sensitive to touch,” but we need to learn the definition pertinent to our present discussion.  The term means “apt to take offense on slight provocation; irritable.”[3]  Touchy means “tending to take offense with slight cause; oversensitive.”[4]

One person describes at least one form of “touchiness” or “over-sensitivity”:

Sensitivity or touchiness is the ego’s desire for attention.  We expect our egos to be spoiled and pampered like a sick body. If that does not happen, if we do not receive love, attention, respect, if we are overlooked or forgotten, if we have been criticized, then we react like a person who is physically sick and make a woeful face. We are hurt, cry and rebel against our neighbors and reproach them.  We imagine that people do not have our best interests at heart, that we are not getting what we deserve, that they are being unfair to us. 

Whenever they say anything, we think they are trying to hurt our reputations.  We become unhappy, but at the same time torment and tyrannize those around us through touchiness and egoism.  That is why this is not merely an “unfortunate disposition,” but a sin which gives birth to many evils, which causes us to heap up guilt upon guilt through our behavior toward out fellow men.  No matter what it costs we have to become free from this sin and begin to wage a campaign against it.[5]

The person who is hypersensitive or “touchy” may be offended at a word you say, when you surely didn’t mean to be offensive.  He may be offended by something you inadvertently do or even something you fail to do.  This perceived offense—even when there is no deliberate wrongdoing—can bring a strong reaction of anger or perhaps isolation.  This is an oversensitivity that makes it difficult to relate to such a person. 

The touchy or over-sensitive person may block out sincere attempts to correct him or her, and thereby he misses the opportunity to grow and become more mature in the Lord.  Many passages speak of the need to share truth and confront another because of sin, but the touchy person doesn’t allow this.  Solomon says, “Reprove a wise man and he will love you.  Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning” (Proverbs 9:8b-9).    Because of his hypersensitivity, a man may refuse to consider the counsel of another person for he is so easily offended.

James says that the “wisdom from above” is peaceable and reasonable, traits that should combat this touchy attitude (James 3:17). Peter encourages his readers to be “harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit”—all traits that help in a battle against hypersensitivity (1 Peter 3:8).  Paul calls on us to “bear with one another” (cf. Colossians 3:12), for if we practice this we won’t be quick to react against perceived slights and offenses.  He also says that we should show tolerance for one another in love (Ephesians 4:2).  If we do this, we will not be irritable or take offense at the slightest provocation.  With the practice of the various virtues inspired by the Spirit, we won’t be overly sensitive, take offense, or be “touchy”!

One writer believes that Paul’s description of love in the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 provides a key to overcoming this sin of hypersensitivity:

The royal law of love is the counter-agent for hypersensitivity. First Corinthians 13:5 amp [sic] reveals that love …is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].    

An overly sensitive person is thin-skinned and experiences feelings of alienation, irritability and resentment in relationships.    The hypersensitive person has usually experienced deep hurt from rejection and needs a lot of approval from others. This individual is excessively sensitive to remarks that may or may not be intended to be hurtful. It is difficult for a person of this nature to trust others, to accept constructive criticism or advice; and this weakness hinders positive relationships. When presentations or suggestions are rejected, that action is taken as a personal attack.[6]

As difficult as it may be, the oversensitive person needs to crucify his flesh and allow God to work in his heart so that he becomes willing to receive counsel, correction, and reproof.  Not every negative remark and not every suggestive look indicates someone’s disapproval or rejection.  We may be incorrect in our assessment.  The oversensitive person needs to repent of the sin of being easily offended by others, with all of the other feelings and reactions that generally come with it—bitterness, anger, resentment, and feeling sorry for oneself.

 



[1] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[2] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[3] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[4] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[5] Schlink, You Will Never be the Same, p. 172.

[6] prayers.org/prayers/ Overcoming_Hypersensitivity.asp

 

 

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