It’s difficult to imagine living in a world where we don’t have to worry about offending each other. It’s the hot topic these days that draws people to social media and news channels.
What offensive statement did that politician say this time? What joke was made that is now congesting everyone’s social media accounts as people petition to get the comedian fired?
Even in our personal lives — you know, the lives we actually live in the real world and not on social media — we seem to jump toward anything we can claim as offensive and stew about it for awhile. Or maybe we are afraid of saying anything about our opinions to certain people, knowing they will take it and help themselves to feelings of offense.
In this three-part series, we’ll take a look at why we feel offended so easily and the reasons behind that, why we’re afraid to offend and how to speak with love, and what the balance is between these questions and concerns surrounding our culture’s need to help people feel offended in order to shut out Godly values.
On feeling offended
It’s true. People can act downright nasty at times. We shouldn’t allow those with louder voices or a more commanding presence to get away with saying whatever they want whenever they want. But why this turn in pulling out the defenses each time someone says or does something with which we don’t agree? Why do we feel offended when someone states their opinion that doesn’t coincide with our own? Too often we act as if that person deliberately came and kicked in our sandcastle of opinions, scattering our thoughts and ideas around as if they were made out of sand.
We live in a time where children are raised in a way where it’s all about them. Everything from participation awards, to parents asking teachers for better grades for their kids, to changing genders when a little girl is simply a tomboy. This environment for children will most likely result in adults who think their opinion is always right. And adults who think their voice should be heard above all else.
We also live in a day and age that provides us with endless amounts of information and opinions that match our own. It’s easy to read the news articles with which you agree. It’s more comfortable to follow the people on social media who have the same viewpoints as you. We never have to read or hear about other opinions if we don’t want to.
The problem with this, however, is we are training ourselves to become uncomfortable with other viewpoints. When we only surround ourselves with people who think and speak the exact same way we do, we will surely feel offended when someone questions our views.
And have you noticed how this has trickled into the Church? We feel offended if someone doesn’t have the same physical boundaries in their dating relationship as we do. We wonder how that person could truly be a Christ-follower with those political views. And we hold onto unforgiveness if a fellow believer hurts us. Because Christians aren’t supposed to treat each other like that. Right?
And the list goes on from there. Why do we so easily feel offended, even in the Church? There will always be people who say harsh things or live in a way that is not honoring to God. And it’s OK to feel offended. But our response to feeling offended should not be holding grudges or posting about it on social media or entering into an argument.
Check your heart
Think about those times you feel offended by someone’s words or actions. Where is your focus during those moments? Are you focused on your own agenda? Your own feelings? Are you preoccupied with wanting to be right and “win” the conversation?
Many times, we feel offended by others because we value our own voice over someone else’s. We are not willing to look at another view. When it comes to the majors of your faith, you should absolutely hold to Biblical viewpoints. But when you’re in conversation about things that don’t make it or break it with the way you live your life, why not open yourself up to hearing what the other person has to say instead of only listening so you know when to talk next?
We can also feel offended because we assume the worst about people. Keep an open mind about this. Even if your first thought is, “I don’t do that. I don’t think the worst about people,” chances are, there have been multiple moments when someone has said or done something, and you feel offended before you have all the facts.
Most of the time, people are not trying to offend you. Especially in your Christian circles, your friends and family have your best interest at heart. Instead of jumping to conclusions and allowing the offense to settle and brew, either ask for clarification or make it a habit to think through the reality of what was said or done. Don’t just assume that person meant ill will toward you.
This certainly won’t answer all your questions or give you the perfect roadmap to never holding onto offense again. So take time to pray as you move forward today. Think about times when you have felt offended. What were your responses? How can you change your responses when those moments happen again?
We live in a world with millions of different viewpoints. Even among Christians, we will not all live our day-to-day life the same way. We must begin entering into conversation with one another and learning from each other instead of criticizing and feeling offended when someone has different views from our own.
It’s not wrong to feel offended. But why you feel offended and your response should look differently as believers than for those who follow their own agendas. As 1 Corinthians 13:5 points out, as followers of Jesus, we must love others in such a way that we do not seek our own gain, are not easily angered and do not hold offense. May we live each day with that Godly love.
Let’s Talk About It: How can you move from feeling offended to responding with Godly love?
There is most certainly a time and place to have conversations that might offend someone. We’ll dig into that this Thursday with part two, “Shedding Light on Offensiveness Part 2: Why I’m afraid to offend.”
The last article of this series, “Shedding Light on Offensiveness Part 3: A healthy balance in a world set to offend,” will be sent out to subscribers Saturday, August 19. Subscribe before Saturday to receive the article right to your inbox!