If You're Always Offended, You're Never Effective
I was reading someone's Facebook post the other day and they were offering a heartfelt confession about their personal experience during this pandemic. Part of her confession was that she was not allowing God to shape her during this time but rather found herself quite frustrated and eager for things to return to normal. She explained how God convicted her and that her heart began to be thankful for this season of "rest" in her life. It seemed to be a pretty harmless post.
Apparently not everyone thought so. One person felt deeply offended by this post. "This is not a time of rest! People are dying! Healthcare workers are exhausted! You have the privilege of resting while other "essential workers" are working tirelessly and risking their lives everyday!"
Whoa. Where did that come from? How could one person's personal experience trigger such an intense response from another? The author of the post gave no indication that her desire was to offend or strike up an argument, and yet her sincere words did just that. Clearly the disgruntled follower was hurt.
One needs only to spend 5 minutes on social media to see that we live in a world of the offended! Everyone has an opinion about everyone else's opinion and heaven forbid they don't speak up about it! Sometimes I wonder if people surf Facebook intentionally looking for posts they can disagree with!
So I decided to do some research. Why does it seem like everyone in our society is always offended? I think we first need to acknowledge that there have always been people who are easily offended! It's just that now we have social media outlets for everyone to voice their offenses on a regular basis. Yippee. Social media also gives us access to far more opinions than ever before, thus giving us more opportunity to get all bent out of shape.
So what's up with everyone getting so worked up? In my reading I learned there are a few key reasons:
1) Anxiety- Folks who are easily offended often have an exaggerated need to feel in control. They desire control over themselves, others, and all outcomes in their lives. They believe that their version of the truth is the only real truth. Therefore, if their "truth" is being challenged by someone else's opinion or experience they feel out of control.
2) It Feels Empowering-Holding grudges and feeling offended all of the time is often a sign that a person isn't able to hold an emotionally healthy conversation about their ideas and emotions. It's easier to respond in anger and offense than it is to have a reasonable conversation. They likely struggle with feeling inadequate and therefore do not want to be proven wrong. People may also feel vulnerable and afraid of being hurt by others which leads to passive aggressive behaviors. These behaviors give the illusion of being empowered. Often times the "bully" is really quite insecure and afraid.
3) Insecure Attachment-When a person did not establish secure attachments from a young age it's hard for them to do so as adults. Therefore, if people aren't paying attention to their needs or don't agree with their perspective, they tend to overreact. They don't know what to ask for or how to express themselves in a healthy way.
4) Low Self-Esteem- When people struggle with low self-esteem they are often triggered by anything that challenges their beliefs and identity. People can wrap their identity into just about any cause, person, or thing. If someone questions, disagrees with, or doesn't approve of that which they have found their purpose or worth, they internalize it as them being rejected.
We could all stand to do a personal inventory to reflect on whether we struggle with any of the above areas. I think if we are honest, the answer will be yes for all of us. The follow up question would then be, "are these struggles causing me to overreact in ways that are not healthy or appropriate?" Henry Cloud who is an acclaimed leadership expert, clinical psychologist, and New York Times best-selling author says, "A good sign of how secure you are is what it takes to offend you. The more secure we are, the less we take offense."
I think it's important to note that there are certainly times when people say or do really mean or hurtful things to us and our cause for offense is warranted! However, airing our grievances on social media is hardly a healthy approach to dealing with these emotions. Neither is gossiping behind someone's back or taking any number of passive aggressive approaches.
The Bible provides a pretty clear formula to follow when dealing with someone who has directly offended you...
Matthew 18:15-17 says, "If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
What if we measured the worthiness of every offense by whether or not we desire to go through the described Biblical process? The next time something rubs you wrong and you feel your blood start to boil, think to yourself..."Am I willing to go to this person face to face and talk this out? And if that doesn't work will I bring a couple people with me to talk again? And if that doesn't work, will I go to my church and bring it before them?" If it's not worth the effort to you or you don't really have a relationship with the person in the first place.....GET OVER IT. (Sorry, I know that was harsh.) But what a waste of energy it is to get worked up over the opinion of a person that you don't care enough about to seek reconciliation and understanding from.
Here's the truth...your opinion, disagreement, or offense doesn't always need to be heard! This is true even if you have an established relationship with someone. Choose carefully when you need to speak up. Make sure it's important. Because if you sit around constantly offended, you will never be effective! People who constantly feel the need to be heard tend to be tuned out by others! Then, when you do have something important to say, no one is paying attention.
Just think about all that could be accomplished if we channeled the negative energy we would use to argue with others, into caring for one another! What if we paid attention to the issues that we are passionate about and took time to study God's word to see what He would have us do about them? Isaiah 1:17 says, "Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow's' cause." Now these are noble and Godly reasons to get fired up!
Friends, it's perfectly normal to feel offended sometimes. People can say and do some pretty dumb and hurtful things. Myself included. And we can't always pick and choose what rubs us the wrong way, but we can choose what's worthy of our response. We can choose to seek God's direction for our lives in the areas we feel passionate about. Only then we can move from being offended to effective!
I'm just sayin...