I was helping Chris get ready for the day after his morning bath, and he heard an airplane flying outside. Chris is our oldest son, age 36 at this writing, who had the umbilical cord around his neck when he was born and suffered a lack of oxygen, so mentally he is about 4 years old.
“Dad! An airplane!” he said, “You’re right, I hear it too. I wonder where it’s going?” I asked, and not giving him the time to answer I continued oblivious to the words on the tip of his tongue; “Maybe someone is flying home after visiting the lake this weekend. Maybe they’re going to work, maybe seeing some friends. Or maybe even going on vacation far away. Where do you think they’re going?” Clearly he had politely been waiting for me to finish, and replied, “They’re going to an airport.”
The lost art of conversation
His response certainly cut to the core truth – no matter why or where they were flying, it was to an airport. But I was so caught up in myself and all the possibilities I could imagine that I barely noticed that Chris was patiently waiting for me to finish talking. That is one element of the culture of offense, the lost art of conversation. We all dominate a conversation once in a while, but not as a habit.
Those in offense don’t want to exchange ideas, for they are caught up in themselves. They want their voice and their voice alone to be heard. They want to use you, not learn from you. It may be to vent, to kill time, to have you confirm what they’ve already decided but use you to justify their decision while pretending they haven’t yet decided. The reasons are numerous but it all adds up to they don’t know how to exchange ideas nor do they want to.
A person in the culture of offense perceives someone voicing another opinion as a threat and therefore is met with a personal attack in an outburst of emotion.
This is part of the emotional instability that goes with being offended. A person’s emotional stronghold of offense cannot be logically justified and they know it, but they are too fragile or hurting or stressed or have an agenda, to get their eyes off themselves and onto what is logical and right and what the Lord would have them do. They take it as rejection, having lost the ability to converse and exchange ideas without feeling threatened, maligned, or personally attacked, so they accuse and attack back, even when in truth, they aren’t being attacked – they just perceive it that way. Yes, that is immaturity, and it is also offense.
When Paul was on Mars Hill in Athens, described in Acts 17, the people gathered were looking for an exchange of ideas and did so without making it personal. They knew how to attack an idea without attacking the person.
Nearly any professional can relate to this concept of exchanging ideas
Sometimes exchanges are in heated arguments, but are without attacking the other person personally. Lawyers, people in management, diplomats, teachers, (hopefully) spouses, and parents know what it is to converse back and forth in heated disagreements while still affirming and valuing and even loving the other person, which keeps them from making it personal.
(If there was any pre-marital class I would offer to the engaged it would be this – learn how to argue. Learn how to express ideas without making it a personal attack, bringing up the past, etc. Argue ideas, argue concepts, argue goals, but don’t make it a personal attack.)
But many people, especially those who have either a weak spouse or no spouse, nor any close friends to speak into their lives, love God in their hearts but live in the small-self that defines itself against others, thus taking offense at anyone with whom they disagree or hurts their feelings. These people live out of ‘self’, and not out of Christ in them.
Rather than telling themselves or letting God tell them how they will feel and think, they let their emotions tell them how they will feel and think.
Wow, talk about living a life on earth in Christ yet bringing nothing to the eternal party but the burned up wood, hay, and stubble of their life. I would not want to be in their shoes on that day.
These same people often hold down jobs, and I’m sure when someone at work says or does something they don’t agree with they don’t walk off the job never to return – because they need the money. Yet these same Christians who know they will give account to their Creator, will live in anger and offense at another Christian, ending relationships though we’ll all know each other in heaven forever – yet they have no fear of God, no desire to be Christ-like if being Christ-like challenges them to change how they feel or think.
Over the years I’ve noticed those who are easily offended are spiritually lazy and don’t like to be moved off their spiritual butt. What I mean is this – imagine a lazy employee talking a long break, and he gets offended when the manager tells him to get to work. Rather than seeing his boss’s command as ‘You know, he is right, I’ve taken way too long of a break and I’m inconveniencing my co-workers’, he instead says ‘The boss doesn’t like me.’
A person living in their smaller, emotional self views communication in any form first through the eyes of offense – they assume the person responding is angry, or perturbed, has an attitude or is annoyed – so they read into the conversation, email, phone call, or letter things which are not intended. This is normal for them, even though love says it believes the best and looks for the best. The man in obedience to Jesus adjusts his attitude and says ‘He is right I’ve been on break too long and the boss wants what is best for me and the company and my co-workers.’ That is love, the attitude the boss doesn’t like him is the culture of offense.
In offense, rather than take responsibility for their own life and attitude, they are unable to see other workers inconvenienced by their long break. They are lazy, blind to their co-worker’s needing them back on the job, more willing to let someone else do their work for them than taking responsibility for themselves.
Put that laziness on a spiritual level and it means someone is more willing to be offended than do what God asks. ‘It is too hard Lord to apologize, so why don’t you just take care of it and consider my slate cleaned up so I can move on.’
The world is set on edge, looking for things to be offended about. But we have not so learned Christ.
I’ve been asked many times how I keep my heart and motives right before the Lord
It is very simple: I don’t form opinions in my mind and emotions about another person’s actions. I judge the fruit of their lives as Jesus said to do, and don’t judge their heart which is also what Jesus said. That way I only truly and honestly want the best for them and therefore have no hidden agenda in the relationship.
Paul put it in different words in Romans 14 among other places, saying essentially, ‘What they do, they do unto the Lord, so that is their business not yours.’ I may need to protect myself from actions I judge to be sinful or potentially dangerous to me or my family, but I don’t judge their heart. Only God knows the heart. Human nature being what it is, means people judge themselves by their motives, but judge others by their expectations. And that leads them directly into being offended and hurt. If you do what you can to make peace and they refuse, their issue is with the Lord, not you. So let Him handle them.
I realized long ago I am already in eternity – we don’t die and then enter into eternity, we are already in eternity. That means we’re all going to get to know one another very well over the next 200, 500, and 5,000 years and beyond. So why not agree on what we can agree on right now, because 10,000 years from now will our differences in this life mean anything at all?
I remember the words of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, before he was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Emperor: “86 years I have served Him and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my Lord and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”
A good look at his perspective on eternity would do those who take offense so easily, Christian or not, some good I think.
New random thought next week, until then, blessings,