What is offense and how does it wreak havoc on modern society? The Google Dictionary definition states offense is an “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.” So, how and why has this simple six-letter word caused so much strife and anxiety in our daily lives?
I learned at a very young age that offense is a choice. My dad is a wise man and he taught me well. It’s my decision on whether I want to receive that offense – intended or not. People are going to do dumb things and stuff comes flying out of our mouths in fits of frustration, anger, hurt feelings, or plain ignorance. Notice in the above definition that offense is a “perceived” insult or comment. In my personal experience, offense generally comes out of miscommunication or misunderstanding. It’s too easy to be set in our own ways, ideas, and paradigms to a point where we simply can’t see another’s point of view. My example? American politics. I’ve never seen so much mud slinging and “intended” battering of people as what we see in politics. It’s rather disgusting to see people behave in this manner. This is the example we as adults are setting for our children? No wonder our society is in such a mess. When we learn not to respond to such things by not “giving it a man to fight with,” we become better off. This is what I call the art of learning to “shut my pie hole.”
In a discussion with a female friend recently, a pro-abortion person (a guy) kept sending articles, blog posts, books, and other reading materials to her as a battering ram for her stance on abortion. My friend had done nothing other than make a statement about why she believed abortion was wrong when he asked her a question. She was met with heavy resistance and extreme aggression from him. This gentleman (if you could call him that) was highly offended at her position and took it upon himself to try and convince her otherwise. Uh, yeah… that probably won’t happen, especially because of his aggressive demeanor.
Let’s look at another example of how offense works. I posted a quick update with some instructions in a private social media group. At the end of the post, I lightheartedly said “mucho thanko!” Less than five minutes after that post, I got a text message saying “I’m a Latina and I find your phrase ‘mucho thanko’ very offensive. Will you please remove it?” Not wanting to start an argument, I apologized for offending her and removed the words. Nothing more was said. This particular person tends to be offended over many things. I find myself over-watching my words just so I don’t accidentally say something offensive that in turn garners a very negative response from her!
Here’s another biggie… I was an elementary school music teacher for a number of years. In the process of teaching several very popular songs, all of a sudden, I started noticing that lyrics changed – words that used to be fine are now considered offensive. The best example? Sing along now…. “Kookaburra sits in an old gum tree! Merry, merry king of the bush is he! Laugh, kookaburra, laugh kookaburra – gay your life must be.” These are the original words to the song. Over the last few years, publishers have taken the word “gay” out and replaced it with “great.” What’s wrong with this? In my mind, they’re taking away a part of culture. Their goal? Not to bring offense to anyone. The word “gay” has more than one meaning and if we can’t get over the fact that it’s not always meant to be derogatory, then our society really has problems.
As a music teacher, I run across this issue all the time. I no longer teach children and have “graduated” to teaching adults how to teach children. In class, we discuss how society is demanding that song lyrics change so as to not offend people. Certain groups are beginning to call for a sensor of books in schools because they could offend a population group. It sounds too much like the book “1984” is actually happening! In my honest opinion, I think we’ve gone too far with this. As I state above, offense is a choice. If I counted up all the times in my life that I COULD have chosen to be offended, I’d be a hot mess! Yes, there are times that people direct offense at me on purpose. But, it’s still my choice to receive the offense. There’s not always an obligation to receive what’s given. Offense is one of those “gifts” I choose to not participate in.
To answer the next question – no, it’s not easy. This is where we get to kick the familiar spirits in the butt. If you’re not sure what that involves, read my blog post about familiar spirits. Everything starts with a decision. That includes what we think aren’t choices we’ve made. If you think about it, we are walking out our choices from yesterday, last year, or even five years ago. You may argue with me but as usual, I’ll use myself as an example. When dealing with the eminent domain situation (that I’m still in at the time of this blog post), I made a decision based on what the state told me about a timeline for my relocation. Their information turned out not to be accurate. And, it’s cost me. I won’t go into those details but, if I want to feel sorry for myself, I could say “Because you told me this, ________ is happening to me!? Notice, this is playing the blame game. It puts the responsibility for my actions on someone other than myself. Yes, the information given to me was incorrect. However, I jumped the gun and probably should have waited for confirmation from Yahweh before I made a decision. Ultimately, the buck stops with me. I can only blame myself for my own choices.
We always pay a price for our decisions – both good and bad. When we make bad decisions, repenting should generally be the next item on the agenda. In the situation above, I knew my choice was correct. The problem was my timing. That’s why it’s so important to live in the presence of Yahweh so we get the timing right on things, too! I repented for my part and chose not to be offended when the state’s timeline changed yet again. The only person’s behavior I can control is my own. What other people/organizations do is between them and Yahweh.
What this boils down to is all about choice. It’s a choice to look at what comes at us and make a decision to look towards Yahweh even when people make an attempt to offend us. This includes “offense by accident.” When we’re not secure in who we are in Christ, we easily become offended. I honestly believe, based on my own experience, that as we learn to walk IN Christ IN that place of rest and peace IN the center of Yahweh’s name, taking offense sits at a distance.
Let’s look at it another way. Offense is like a familiar spirit. It sits on our shoulders saying things like “Listen to what he/she said to you! Doesn’t that make you mad? He/she called you a _________!!!” Doesn’t it hurt your feelings? How could he/she say such things to you!? Wow – that was a very insensitive comment! He/she’s being mean to you on purpose and doesn’t care about you or your feelings at all!” When these thoughts come at us, it’s literally a familiar spirit talking smack. That’s our opportunity to flick it off our shoulders and look directly to Yahweh for HIS answer IN the midst of the attempted offense. Those first thoughts that flit through our minds determine our next course of action. When that course of action is to look away from the problem or offense, it’s much easier to not take on the offense.
In this society of “political correctness,” we have become politically “incorrect.” We are so concerned that we’ll offend someone. Look where it’s brought us. There’s more sickness, mental illness, stress, strife, rejection, suicide, abuse, etc… etc… than most of us have ever seen. It’s sad to look at young people today and see they are taking more drugs for various mental conditions and emotional situations than many of us have seen in our lifetime! Why is that? People simply can’t handle the stress. Why are we stressed? I believe part of that (notice… I say only PART) is due to the fact that we spend quite a bit of time offended over the things that come at us or that people say about us. We have lost our identity.
How do we fix this epidemic? The solution is actually rather simple. However, it takes time and consistent practice to resolve. It has to do about our identity in Christ. “New Age” thought is all focused on self empowerment. Well, that only works if we are confident in our abilities of “self.” However, that only gets us so far. Even the people who say they’ve achieved that complete place of peace and confidence in themselves, I’ve not known a one of them that doesn’t have some fears. It’s a matter of pushing the right trigger and… watch out! It reminds me of the response I witness from people who hate bugs, mice, snakes, and such “horrible” creatures. Everyone has witnessed normally calm and collected people lose control when a phobia enters the scene. You get the picture…
In my own experiences of life (many of them were very unpleasant and even traumatic), I use them as springboards to help point me to my true identity in Christ. How do I do that? First of all, I start with “practicing” not being offended at everything that comes my way. This includes what’s said for the purpose of offense as well as what’s unintended. As I go through this course of practice, I’m noticing there are less triggers to offense. When something comes at me and I recognize it for what it is, I quickly make a point to go to that place of rest IN Christ and deal with it there. Usually, it involves taking care of some “stinkin’ thinkin'” on my part. Many times, the triggers that bring up the offense are things (hurts, wrong-doings, fears, abuses, etc.) in me that I’ve not yet worked through. Once that’s dealt with, we move on.
Let me state this… I’ve made MANY mistakes, been rude to people, caused offenses, reacted out of my own insecurities, etc… etc. As I discover the times I’ve done such things, I end up in the Court of Accusations (mobile court) to repent, asking myself to be judged. Sometimes, I do this many times within a day. The more I take care of the “junk” in my life, the more free I become and the less offense I take at things thrown at me or directed my way. At the same time, I focus on who I am in Christ. I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing who we are in Christ! The more I truly understand my identity IN Him, the more things seem to line up in my life. I’m more at peace and able to handle stressful situations that look me in the face saying, “What are you going to do about this!?”
My parting words of wisdom for you… when something “offendable” is said, consider looking for the trigger that desires to receive the offense. Choose not to accept it. Then, get into that place of rest IN Christ and see what He has to tell (and show) you about it. By practicing this protocol, I believe one-by-one, those who choose to walk this path of not taking offense can change how our society operates. We do it from heaven to earth – from that higher position of authority on the mountain of our lives IN Christ. We have an invitation to “come up here.” So, let’s do it.
© 2018 by Del Hungerford