In an effort so serve those who aren’t podcast listeners I’m sharing the majority of this week’s episode of The Next Right Thing Podcast here on the blog. If you’d prefer to listen, tune in to Episode 80: Don’t Take Offense. Where books are listed here, I’ve used my affiliate links.
The gate into our backyard has been slowly breaking for years. At first, it just needed an extra shake to get open but now we have to keep it tied with a rope at the top so it will stay closed. John has made it work over the years, but something is weird with the design and it keeps needing more than we have to give it.
I pull the gate closed, put the rope back in place, and walk inside to do the dishes, only to discover the sink was clogged and the water won’t go down.
My favorite jeans have a hole (and not the kind you want) but I wear them anyway because every other option is dirty. When I finally sit at my desk to do some work, as soon as I meet one deadline, three more show up in my inbox.
I read an email and someone is disappointed with me. In a conversation, a friend says some things that feel dismissive of me and my situation. Later I’m sitting in a group and leave feeling like an idiot for no particular reason but also for lots of reasons I can’t quite articulate.
From the girl who didn’t mean anything by it when she inadvertently insulted you, to the child who needs you at the most inconvenient times.
From the woman at the grocery store who looks at you funny because you give your kid two of those free cookies they offer in the bakery area all the way to the Maker of the Universe who invites us simply to come away for a while in the midst of all we have to do.
Defending yourself can become a full-time job, one that takes up brain-space at work, in your car, on the weekends, at the grocery store.
You may find yourself explaining the actions of this ungracious person to your spouse, your best friend, your sister, your mom or anyone else who will listen. I only know this because I have done this. A skill we all come by naturally is our remarkable ability to take offense. It’s quite impressive if you think about it.
In the broad scope of life, these annoyances are minor, but that doesn’t mean they have no impact. It’s true, we live as resurrection people after the blessed reminder of Easter. But in our actual life, we often never really let go of the shadow of Lent.
One cause of decision fatigue I see is not necessarily a result of having a massive amount of important decisions to make. It can be that, but many times instead, decision fatigue comes when we refuse to acknowledge the weight of the small hurts, annoyances, dismissals, and offenses we carry around all day, every day.
When we are confronted with the necessary task of having to make a decision about our work, our home, our schedule, or on behalf of other people, we don’t have the energy or motivation to care.
We’re offended when we’re hurt. We’re offended when they misunderstand. We’re offended when they don’t acknowledge our feelings. And when we are offended, one of two things may happen.
One, we feel dumb for feeling offended so we deny the offense on the outside but still stew on the inside.
Or two, we feel justified for feeling offended so we lash out, hide out, or design a passive-aggressive version of both.
I’m not issuing an invitation to wallow in our offenses. But what if we agreed to face them, admit them, and quickly let them go.
Why? Because we need to leave room for the offenses worth fighting for. In the face of injustice, discrimination, prejudice, and racism of any kind, outrage is the appropriate response. But it isn’t outrage for outrage sake.
Dallas Willard says whenever we become angry it’s because we believe our kingdom just got invaded. But the good kind of anger is when God’s kingdom is invaded. This is the offense to pay attention to.
I’m not saying there is never a time to take offense. I’m also not saying we aren’t allowed to feel hurt, violated, or dismissed. We are allowed to, of course, we are.
I am saying imagine a world where you could choose not to take offense. Where just because someone offers an offense in your direction doesn’t mean you have to take it.
The most important decision you make today could be to decide to not perseverate over that conversation, that weird look, that dismissive behavior. What if you took the word, the glance, the insult intended or unintended and instead of carrying it around, what if you looked at it, acknowledged it, and set it down instead?
What if we dared to remain delightfully un-offended?
I’m not saying this is easy. I am saying it’s interesting.
Remember who you are.
Keep a light heart.
Don’t take offense.
Jesus promises his grace is sufficient. He promises in our weakness his power is made perfect. So when schedules get full, when patience runs low, when the opportunity for misunderstandings run as high as the sky, stay close to your friend Jesus who had every right to take offense, but chose love instead. Instead of turning his back, he turned toward. Instead of lashing out, he leaned in.
The truth is death doesn’t always look like a tragedy. Sometimes death is a slowly dripping faucet. And even though these things can’t be compared to real danger or true poverty, disappointment and weariness can drip the life right out. Slow. Quiet. Drip.
The life of Christ was a one way road to death. It’s been said Jesus died so I didn’t have to. The truth is, Jesus died and so did I. Jesus didn’t stay dead. And neither do we.
When we are offended, it can feel like dying a little bit on the inside. But let the dying moments remind us where to find the living.
Being offended takes energy. Staying offended is a full-time job.
But this is energy you need to do your good and beautiful work, to love the people you are called to love, to move through the world as the person you most deeply are and to live your one life well.
“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life.” – Colossians 3:3
Here is the place where the ordinary peers through the glass dimly, where even though I stand alone in my kitchen or sit waiting on the phone or stretch out on top of the covers, or sit behind the steering wheel, I can be there at the cross. Because even though I am offended, I do not have to take offense.
Instead of standing up tall and tensing my shoulders, I can bow down low and remember I have died. And in that quiet, lowly place, I see a small blade, green and strong, born from the death of a seed. And life shoots up from broken earth carrying truth, joy, and freedom because if I have died, then what have I to fear?
And so from death like Christ, I live.
Here’s the thing, these words may not resonate with you right now. But maybe next week or next month or tomorrow, when the way she speaks to you is so shocking it makes your eyes cross, when the kids disrespect you so blatantly you can’t stand up straight, when your boss blames you for that thing you had nothing to do with, maybe you will remember these words.
This is what it feels like to die. And it hurts and is painful and doesn’t seem to have a point. Maybe it won’t have a point unless you demand it does, unless you insist on squeezing the death out of the moment until the life shows up, be it through gratitude, acceptance, belief and a refusal to take offense.
Don’t allow someone else’s dysfunction to poke yours awake.
If you feel worn out or a little teary, if the fog of doubt and the shadow of anxiety lingers too close by today, if the burden of defending yourself has proven to be too much for you, take heart.
There is another option.
In the midst of the rubble and heartache of everyday life, I hope you’ll pause with me to find the quiet path of hope.
What if we remained so stubbornly close to Christ that it became impossible to offend us?
May the love of the Father, the power of the Son, and the protection of the Holy Spirit be with you now as you simply do your next right thing in love.
In a post like this, it could be easy to think of all the people in your life who need to hear these words. But if I may gently encourage you this post is not for your neighbor, your political enemy, your father-in-law, or that lady in your book club.
The only way the practice of not taking offense will make any difference in the world is if we each take it for ourselves. The minute we try to use any of this to make a point, well, we’ve missed the point.
In closing, here are a few words from Henri J.M. Nouwen, in his book, The Way of the Heart
“The raging torrents of our tumultuous times have made it very hard not to lose sight of the light and not to let ourselves drift away into the darkness . . . When we have been remodeled into living witnesses of Christ through solitude, silence, and prayer, we will no longer have to worry about whether we are saying the right thing or making the right gesture, because then Christ will make his presence known even when we are not aware of it.”
May it be so in us.
New episodes of The Next Right Thing Podcast drop every Tuesday. You can peruse past episodes right here. If you like what you hear, grab a copy of The Next Right Thing at your favorite online or in person bookstore.