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Refusing Offense

Refusing Offense

I would not be the first person to take note of the fact that a trend seems to have developed in our culture where almost everyone is offended by something. Maybe it’s a Confederate flag, maybe it’s a rainbow flag, maybe it’s the notion that some else is offended by a Confederate flag or a rainbow flag, but a lot of people seem to be offended a lot of the time, and in the end, we seem to be a nation of people who are all offended about something. And that’s too bad, because usually offended people struggle with things like treating one another with respect and discussing difficult topics in a civil way (think back to most of the dozens of social media debates you have likely witnessed over the last couple of weeks).

Reflecting on all of this has led me to a conclusion about how I want to live my life as a Christian living in 21st century America: I refuse to allow other people to offend me. Of course there will likely be exceptions to this rule in which I will still take offense at something extraordinary, but as a general principle, I am determined to choose to not be offended in potentially offensive situations. Let me explain that a bit.

(1) When you allow other people to offend you, in a sense, you grant them power over you. People who are prone to taking offense live their lives in reactionary fashion, subject to having their attitude and outlook for the day ruined based on the words of someone else. So in one sense, being prone to offense essentially causes you to become powerless, and I choose instead to exert more control over my reactions.

(2) Being offended is not a pleasant feeling. As quick as some people are to get offended, you would think that it was a fun or pleasurable experience. Maybe I just don’t know how to be offended properly, but it has never been enjoyable for me. Life is too short and there are too many meaningful things to focus on for me to waste time being constantly offended.

(3) Taking offense frequently involves judging the motives of others. A lot of times we get offended when the offending party didn’t even mean to offend us; we simply misread the situation or the other person’s intentions. Judging the intentions of others puts us in dangerous spiritual territory.

(4) I think refusing to be offended is an important part of the admonitions of Scripture. Paul says in Romans 12.18 (cf. Hebrews 12.14):

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

I used to think that this meant that we shouldn’t be jerks to other people, and certainly, I think that is a huge part of it. Put in the terms of this discussion, we should try to avoid needlessly offending other people with what we say or do. But I think you could plausibly argue that it goes beyond that: be at peace with others by not being so critical of what they say and do to you and taking offense at those things. And even in those (rare) circumstances when people intentionally try to offend us, I think refusing offense is an act of grace, where we deny the urge to harbor negative feelings toward the other person and instead free ourselves to treat them with good will.

So, there you have it: moving forward, I will not allow others to easily offend me (But by all means, don’t feel like you have to try!).

4 Comments

  1. Good thoughts, I love what Randy Harris had to say about this in his book “Life Work” …confessions of an everyday disciple, chapter 6, “The Fully Mature Christian Doesn’t React.” …and when does your book come out? 😉

    • Luke

      July 8, 2015 at 8:43 AM

      Hey Keith, thanks for the comment.

      Thinking about the behavior of Jesus, I might want to qualify Harris’s statement a little bit. Jesus certainly reacted (strongly) when He saw the money changers in the temple after all. But I think he is definitely onto something in the sense that Jesus rarely reacted, and that was in a context where the Pharisees were constantly were trying to provoke Him. So, a good thought by Harris.

      My book…? I’ll let you know. 😉

  2. Most of the time what we call an offense is nothing more than, I don’t like. Secure people are offended by little.
    Great article Luke.
    Kiwi Down Under.

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