(Disclaimer: This post is not intended to offend anyone.)
While having my morning devotional time this past week, I came across this verse: “Overlook an offense and bond a friendship” (Proverbs 17:9, MSG). In light of recent pop culture events, this verse struck a chord with me. And I thought to myself, What if we stopped being so offended by people and things?
During the past year, one thing has become evident: People are constantly getting offended at someone or something. Whether it be a people group, a minority, a religious organization, or the like, it seems there’s no longer a way to be tolerant or politically correct these days without it somehow causing offense to someone else along the way. There’s a fascination these days for “playing the victim.” Quite frankly, it’s a vicious cycle.
Granted, there are some extreme scenarios that call for serious conversations and apologies to be made for complete behavioral insensitivities. But most of the time, the deeper issue involves asking ourselves, “Is this really worth taking such personal offense?”
Rather than carrying an attitude of “You offended me; now, please apologize,” what if we instead embraced an attitude of mercy and forgiveness? What if we took such joy in what we believe that no public statement or attack against it could destroy it or cause the need for defensive tactics (Ever heard of turning the other cheek? See Matthew 5:39.)?
Demanding apologies and complete tolerance when someone says something against your way of life, belief systems, or convictions suggests that you are the standard for what all people think or hold as truth. But obviously, not everyone is on the same page about life–nor will they ever be. No matter how much we hope or desire for everyone to hold our same beliefs and convictions, we can’t force anyone to do such a thing. Ultimately, they must choose for themselves.
So, in the meantime, what if we stopped being so offended? What if we took the advice from Proverbs and overlooked offenses and bonded friendships instead? Friends don’t have to see eye to eye all the time. They don’t even have to condone each other’s behaviors. But they can love each other and live in peace.
Verse 10 of the same Proverbs 17 passage goes on to say, “A quiet rebuke to a person of good sense does more than a whack on the head of a fool.” We can disagree and debate with opposing opinions in peaceful ways that might actually lead someone to see or understand our points of view in the long run. But when we react in offense, demanding others to instantly convert to our ways of thinking, we do more harm than good.
So my challenge is this: Let’s stop getting easily offended. Let’s be quick to forgive, quick to converse in peace, and quick to build bonds with those who do not share our views. We can tolerate opposing beliefs without surrendering our convictions. In fact, lending a loving ear and some nonthreatening wisdom might actually cause others to be more open to learning about our personal beliefs.
As you ponder all these things, here are a few thoughtful quotes regarding offendedness:
“Forgive all who have offended you, not for them, but for yourself.” – Harriett Nelson
“An offended heart is the breeding ground for deception.” – John Bevere
“Offendedness is just about the last shared moral currency in our country. And, I’m sorry, but it’s really annoying. We don’t discuss ideas or debate arguments, we try to figure out who’s most offended.” – Kevin DeYoung
“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know that I’m not blonde.” – Dolly Parton
“Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.” – Rene Descartes