Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Taking Offense

Please don't take offense. Apparently some cartoons instigated some hard feelings among a certain segment of the world's population. I don't get it, and I'm looking for some help.

First of all, it takes a lot to offend me. Perhaps that's my problem in comprehending the current, um...passionate response to the Danish cartoons. I mean, even outright blasphemy against my faith doesn't offend me personally very often. Personal insults do not either.

There are a few reasons for this, aside from my understanding that the First Amendment guarantees that there will be speech/actions with which I vehemently disagree and find to be utterly insulting. First, I tend to discount anything I perceive to be false. So, if someone blasphemes God, I recognize the lie inherent in the assertion, and so take one of two approaches depending on the situation. I either try to clear up the ignorance, or I write the episode off as being unworthy of offense. After all, who cares what an idiot says? In such cases, I'm not offended so much as I'm concerned about correcting error. If someone is blaspheming, they are treading dangerous ground, and the loving response would be to restore that person to a true belief -- or at least to demonstrate the lie so that others are not led astray.

Second, by taking offense, I am allowing others to dictate my feelings to me. In other words, I let the actions of others determine how I feel. If someone is rude, do I let their rudeness affect my disposition? I'm not sure I should. Again, correction or disdain seem to me more appropriate actions.

Third, I think taking offense is generally a sign of insecurity. This ties to my first reason. If I know something to be wrong, or ignorant, or false, and have sufficient confidence in the rightness of my position or belief, then it's hard for me to be offended. Instead I tend to pity the idiot, I mean the other person involved.

Finally, I expect offensive words and actions to come my way. Jesus promised it would happen. In fact, He even commends it as a blessing when we are aligned with God to the point that the world deems us worthy of insulting. If I weren't tracking with God, the world wouldn't care enough to slander me, nor would I really care what they say about Him. Jesus' response was to love and forgive those who persecuted Him. It is up to God to deal with insults, not us. Our job is to try and show people the way of truth and love.

Should we be offended as much as we are? Should we take attacks so personally, or should we really be looking for ways to respond as Jesus would - with truth and love?

I'm not saying that insults can't be damaging, or that blasphemy should be ignored. But how does it help to take things so personally, and get so bothered in our hearts that we forget the offender needs to learn truth? Should I let my feelings get so hurt that I lash out, selfishly trying to reclaim honor, or should I instead try to help the offender understand and correct his/her behavior?

Perhaps it's because I'm from the U.S., where dissent and debate are (allegedly) encouraged and accepted (though there are some out there who try to squelch free speech.) Perhaps it's because I believe Jesus when He said we should love those who curse us. But I really need help understanding why taking offense is such an accepted thing for so many people. I don't get it.

God bless!

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