Offended (1,154)

May 22nd, 2011

She was delightful. Even though I had just met her, she possessed a sweetness of spirit that foreshadowed great love and tenderness. Yet she was intimidated and fearful of the reaction of people. She was concerned there might be those who would be offended that some thing or another might occur. Please understand—I do not say this to be critical of this fine woman.

Candidly, the only thing I think Americans have become better at over the last twenty years is being offended. There seems to be a sense of entitlement that causes us to believe that even statements said to us in passing or in humor need to be tempered with so much sensitivity that no truth spoken nowadays has enough edge to actually cut through the crap. Yes, I sympathize with this dear lady, for I, too, have to consider my words a bit more carefully than I once did, and then have to reconsider the power of a thought in favor of getting along and being acceptable to my fellow-travelers.

Here is the statement that has gotten us in trouble, causing us to become hyper-sensitive about the way we are viewed: “Because I’m good, I should be treated better.”

We spent nearly twenty-five years on the “project of human self-esteem,” only to end up with people who believe they have value without bearing fruit. Historically, it is ridiculous. Biblically, it’s heresy. And socially, it is a minefield which no one can actually walk through without creating controversy.

Can I give you my perspective on it? I’m not trying to tell you I’m right, I’m merely presenting the elements that I have seen work in human interaction instead of making us appear to be a pimple that needs to be popped, but refuses to be touched.

1. No one is good. If achieving self-esteem can only be acquired by insisting on the “goodness” of human beings, we may have a problem. Even Jesus deflected the notion that he was “good.” The quality of a human life is not determined in accumulating laurels for purity, but rather, in how we handle and deal with our faults. In other words, “Since I’m NOT good, how quickly I acknowledge and address my inadequacies determines my value much more than pounding the podium and demanding attention for my excellence.”

2. I will be treated like people have always treated folks like me. If I’m around fat bigots, I’ll be treated like a fat man. If I’m a white man in the midst of a group of dark-skinned individuals who don’t like white people, I cannot expect them to focus in on the quality of my character. Once again, Jesus told us that if people treated him badly, there’s no reason to believe a new trend will be formed just because “we’re so cute.” That’s the power of taking into consideration where you’re going, who you’re going to be with and what their mindset is before you decide to tackle a task.

3. And finally, my power in life is in choosing my attitude before I am forced into a reaction. Bluntly, if I know I am going to be dealing with fat bigots, I should prepare myself from head to toe, selecting my clothing carefully, coming with a greater sense of humor, poking a couple of jokes at myself before they get a chance to, and being prepared to be at the top of my game in using my talent. Our energy is drained when we’re drawn into a reaction instead of charging our batteries by choosing our own attitude.

I have found that these three steps keep me from the nasty feeling of being offended.The truth of the matter is, human beings only know how to do three things: ignore, accept and reject. Acceptance is the hardest to accomplish, so usually we will find ourselves ignored. But on those times that we aren’t ignored, a certain amount of rejection is inevitable. The truth is, initial rejection may be the sole path to ultimate acceptance.

I looked into the eyes of that dear woman yesterday who was so rattled by the possibility of people being offended. It saddened me that she lost some of her impetus because of the trepidation over human critique. But the only way to really deal with people being offended is to make sure that you are not offended by their touchiness. I cannot promise you that I will never offend you.

But I can work on making sure that I am not offended by your particular sensitivity.

Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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