We seem to live in a time where a lot of people are offended. it almost seems as if there is some sort of contest to see who can be the most offended. In the past month it has been pointed out to me that Thanksgiving, Santa Claus, the Christmas song baby it’s cold outside, And asking the question where are you from are all offensive. These things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the things that I found are considered to be offensive. Now don’t get me wrong I understand that people do offensive things. I also assume that in many cases these offenses are unintentional. A few years ago I was giving a speech at a convention after my speech young teenage Caucasian girl saw me in the elevator. She was very excited. She complemented me on how much she enjoyed my speech. She then said that I spoke better than any black guy she had ever met. Let’s not sugarcoat it, that was offensive; however, the offense was not the intention of the statement. At this point I had 3 options, I could ignore the statement altogether. I could get angry and let the young girl know that I was angry, or I could thank her for the sentiment behind the statement and then explain to her why what she just said was offensive. I chose the third option. I decided to use the moment as a teaching moment. I had a seat with her in the lobby and I thanked her for letting me know how much she enjoyed my presentation, Then I explain to her the reason why her statement about me being well spoken was offensive. As I was explaining this to her she turned red and got an extremely embarrassed look on her face. I let her know that I was not angry. The reason that I was bringing this up was because I thought that it was something that she needed to know. She vociferously apologized for the offense and thank me for taking the time to explain the situation to her.
When it comes to being offended our emotions are our own emotions. Intent doesn’t matter when it comes to how we feel because we can’t help how we feel. What we are in control off is how we react to the situation. I believe that God has given us the best , most useful best, way to deal with situations in which we are offended.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19 NRSV)
In this short line From the book of James we have the blueprint on how we should deal with offense, first we should be slow to anger . turning to anger too quickly does not do anything to help the situation. Had I gone directly to anger in my interaction with the young lady at the conference, an opportunity for education and reconciliation would have been lost. When offended we should be slow to anger. When offended we should be slow to speak , especially if we are angry . history has shown us that quite often when speaking out of anger the language is more destructive than constructive, and finally when offended we should take time to listen. In most cases when we are offended if we are slow to anger , and slow to speak, and we take the time to get to the reason behind the offense. If we listen to the person who has caused the offense, most of the time we will find is that the offense was unintentional.
I understand in the current world that we are living in, it’s hard to believe that people who are offensive could be doing so unintentionally. When we see the things that are posted on Twitter and Facebook . we look at the language that is used by role models and people in power it is hard to imagine that these offenses do not represent the behavior and intentions of the mass population , but they don’t. So let’s try not to be offended. Let’s be slow to anger, slow to speak, And quick to listen. Most importantly when we are offended let’s take the time to examine the reason why we are offended. Sometimes if we do a deep self examination we may find that although we were offended we really had no reason to be.