I have a friend who once told me, “If you can be offended... you will be.” This truth is sinking in for me as I read offensive tweets by everyone from Amanda Bynes to the President of the United States. We even think it’s okay to have Wendy’s roast people for sport (okay actually that is pretty funny - Read here). When I see stories about culturally appropriated prom dresses, micro-aggressions, and rage-attacks on people who aren’t up on the latest trend in offense-du-jour, I think... who hurt you, baby?
No, really... I am genuinely concerned for our angry friends out there who are desperately trying to voice their very deeply felt concerns. Even if I can’t... well, can’t identify in any way, shape or form. I have no idea what makes some people upset with me. No angry rant here. Just befuddled. I DO know that, at a certain age, if you had told me to “calm down” at any point in an argument, you would have to buckle up to ride the lightning. I like to think I am evolved now. Is it ever okay, really, to shout someone down if they don’t understand or agree with your position?
I like to think all offenders fit into one of three categories: Dumb, stupid, and ignorant. Hear me out.
Number one: Dumb is incapable. Let Dumb go. Shouting at Dumb will not change anything. Getting angry at Dumb is like getting angry at the curb for being too close to your car when you parallel park. You just have to negotiate around Dumb because Dumb ain’t moving.
Number two: Stupid. Somewhere in their subconscious, Stupid knew better, but Stupid did not have a full grasp of consequence. You can work with Stupid, just take a deep breath when Stupid fails to really, deeply, apologize because they have not arrived yet. Stupid takes time and effort, but with a little attention, Stupid can reform.
Number 3: Ignorant. Ignorant truly had no idea. Ignorant was not exposed to all the possibilities, backgrounds, and facets of life. Ignorant can be instructed to appreciate that he or she does not know everything, and should try to be more empathetic going forward.
If you want to be truly heard, and have your position fully appreciated, please try to remember: Shame will not correct Stupid. Shouting will not transform Ignorant. Righteous anger only results in inspirational change when the injured party can find it in their heart to effectively discipline the offender.
Offensive behavior causes pain. Meeting offense with more offensive behavior causes more pain, with little likelihood of any change. Meeting aggression with aggression has a name: war. The War of Words is creating a new group of wounded on the battlefield. Don’t let this group of wounded be able to point to you as the New Offender. Remember, at some time, we will all be Stupid or Ignorant. Possibly, God forbid, Dumb.
Jesus faced angry, wounded people with the perfect response: Love. If there was an action that was not born out of love, He did not indulge in it. His righteous anger burned against money lenders in the temple, and Pharisees bent on subjugating people for power. Yet he did nothing that would not serve as a template for how people should be treated.
The perfect, shut-your-mouth clap-back for people who have offended you? Love. Love sounds like this: How can I understand you better? I apologize... I forgive you... It sounds like you are having a bad day... I hope you feel better soon... Can we find common ground?
And sometimes... silence is golden.
I Cor. 13: 5-7 (TPT) Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. 6 Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 7 Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.