It’s easy to get offended. There are plenty of circumstances, people, and viewpoints to get offended at if we just turn on the news or social media. Social media in particular seems to have just thrown gas on the flames. Social justice warriors, people just trying to be heard, and people who are tired of hearing it all fill both our feeds and our time.
When we are with other people, it’s easy to carry over our feelings of being offended. We might just want to vent, or we might want to find out if our opinions are shared by someone else. Whatever the case, we look for validation in the midst of the stress of offense.
I have decided I’m going to give up getting offended for Lent. First, some ground rules. I am not saying there are not things worth caring about. There are plenty of things to care about. However, if I actually care, then I must take the time to do something. If it is important enough to add stress and offense, then it is important enough to create a solution or work with those who already creating a solution.
Second, I am not invalidating my feelings. Feelings are different than the way we process them. Offense is not a feeling as such. Being offended is the process of having a feeling, for example revulsion, and then applying a value to that feeling relative to my thoughts and appraisal of the situation.
Which leads to three- I must take time to properly process whatever is getting a rise in me before I respond. One of the chief ways I can do this is by limiting how much time I put into paying attention to things like social media. So, this is a two part step, take time to process by consuming less. The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out” is definitely true in this area. Consuming more media, whether it is social media, online news, or television does not help any of us to be better at being less offended.
Finally, this is not a behavior modification exercise. Behavior modification concerns itself with changes outward in appearances and actions. Offense starts in the heart. What do I care about? I want to desire God more. Isaiah 8:14 says, “He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Holman Christian Standard)” Paul uses this verse in Romans 9:30 while expounding on the nature of faith. Our goal in Lent must be to pursue holiness through faith. In other words, we are coming to know the person of Christ more as we set aside certain things.
It is easy to forget, at least for those of raised in the church, that the Christian faith is fairly ridiculous from a certain point of view. If we trusted rational thought alone, or even our own experience, we would not believe in the risen God-man of Jesus Christ.
People have been offended by Jesus and have failed to hear from Him. Mythic views of Christianity may be on the rise (see for example this article which sums up Richard Carrier’s attempt to show Jesus was never a historical person https://www.macleans.ca/society/life/did-jesus-really-exist-2/). Mythic explanations of Jesus are a rational argument against Jesus.
One of the best things we can do as Christians if we are to be rational people of faith is to give up offense. By giving up offense, we can hear from Jesus and rest in grace and compassion towards those we disagree with when we encounter them. What better way is there to share our faith than to engage in conversations where we care to act yet also adopt the persona of Christ? If people have been offended by Jesus, what right do we have to think of ourselves as more than Him?
My hope during this Lenten season is to take on more of Christ and less of my self. Letting go of being offended is one way I want to engage in this season. Will you join me? -Christopher