Stop being offended

Posted by matt on June 27, 2017 in Matt |

Make up your mind not to be offended anymore. Your life will be better.

Last week I wrote these words on Facebook and my good friend Darin goaded me into writing a few more. So, I’m going to spend a few minutes about the dangers of unnecessary offense and a few potential solutions. DISCLAIMER: I write as one who is still in process with this myself, not as an expert. Carry on.

Why is choosing offense so dangerous?

When we choose to be offended we intentionally or otherwise place ourselves in an elevated position of self-importance, saying by our offense that it is our idea, belief cause, pet peeve that deserves to rue the day. If there cannot be total agreement, about every conceivable thing, than total disagreement is the only other option. In many ways this belief and resulting practice is manifest in the current polarization of our society. When we break everything down into “us vs. them”, true conversation, compromise and meaningful progress is nearly impossible.

When we choose to be offended we give up the possibility of being wrong, and what a glorious gift being wrong is. When we admit we are wrong, we have the opportunity for true growth and development in areas where we are limited. If we give up the possibility of being wrong, we will never grow.

Next, when we choose to be offended, rather than our voice becoming larger, it becomes smaller. Like the boy who cried wolf, the more we talk about our offense, the less people listen. This de-legitimizes true offense, numbing others from hearing our voice when we meaningfully engage with matters or real or ultimate importance.

Most importantly, when we choose to be offended we automatically give the offender power over us should only belong to King Jesus. There is a word in the Bible given for what happens when we give away power to created things; the word is Idolatry. Most of the time, it is our love of being angry, our love of our own ego, or our love of personal pride that we are fueling in being offended.

How do our lives become better when we choose not to be offended?

Our lives become better when we are in control of our emotions. When we are offended, we allow our emotions to be in the drivers seat, we allow them to lead us rather than us leading them. Think about the number of emotional decisions you have made, or the number of times you have uttered words in a moment of emotion. Chances are these are decisions and words you wish you had back, or in the very least wish you could have crafted more thoughtfully. There is a reason why Scripture spends so much time talking about how we must guard our heart, how it is desperately wicked and conversely, the benefit of renewing our mind, taking every thought captive.

Truthfully, Choosing to be offended is our problem not somebody else’s. We don’t have the power to do anything about what another person says, does, or posts on social media; nor do we know their motivations for doing so. We do however have a choice in how we respond to such things. That’s why being offended is something we make up our mind about. We have the power and opportunity to lead our mind and emotion instead of being lead by our mind and emotion.

In this incredibly compelling interview with Jocko Willnk (super long, but super good!) POW Charlie Plumb talks about sharing an 8’ cell with another prisoner for years. He said in an environment like that it is easy to become annoyed with what the other man does. His habits, sleeping patterns, the way he smelled; all of these challenges being ripe fodder for annoyance. Yet, he realized that his cell-mates habits being bothersome was his problem, not that of his cell mate. If a POW in Vietnam can have the presence of mind to treat his fellow prisoners habits as his own personal issue to overcome, then surely we can exercise a bit more resolve and discipline when we view a stupid meme on Facebook

Our lives become better when we hold our ideas in tiered humility. In life we should have certain ideas, values and morals we are willing to fight and die for. If we haven’t such things we cease being cogent, conscious and competent humans. Yet, we must know the difference between close handed issues (things we are willing to fight over), and open handed issues, (those which we are willing to walk hand and hand with). Not everything is a close handed issue.

Our lives become better when we live in real relationship with people. The solution to much of our unreasonable offense can be found in having conversations with real people in real relationships. I am very fortunate to have valuable friendships with people who see life differently and hold different values than I do. We don’t always agree, and frankly some of what they say and believe makes me uncomfortable. Yet even when I am prone to offense, my love for the person and the value of our relationship is far more important than my feeling of offense. How often is the source of what we are offended by someone we don’t even know? Why do we so easily give power and credibility to people we can never influence?

Finally, our lives become better when we spend our energy towards things/people/issues we can affect. This is the true way to make our lives and that of our neighborhoods, communities and society better.

So the next time you are tempted towards offense. Take a second and detach from the heat of the moment. Don’t write the Facebook rant, don’t repost the stupid meme, don’t start a fight with your spouse. Call a friend you disagree with on the phone and have a conversation, play kickball with your kids, go for a walk. Quit taking yourself and every thought you have ever had so seriously. If we all commit to doing this, we will all be much much happier.



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