The Courage to Take No Offense

I’m GUILTY.  I have lacked the courage to take no offense.  Let me explain.

I admire my Facebook friends on the conservative right who post, share, and forward posts which will undoubtedly tweak the sensibilities of our Facebook friends on the liberal left.  But they stand up and do it anyway.

I simply don’t have the courage to push the like button or “worse,” forward or share those posts, many of which I totally agree with because they seem as close to the obvious truth as I see it. I’ve been the victim of demeaning challenges by a couple of my liberal Facebook friends when in the past I’ve shared posts with a conservative point of view.  I’ve backed off and I’m sort of ashamed of this.

First, I should make it clear that Facebook posts are mostly, if not entirely based on someone’s opinion.  Some opinions probably are based more on fact than other opinions, but just the same, they are opinions.  Opinions are personal points of view, beliefs based on grounds not sufficient to produce certainty.  Or, opinions, such as “I hate summer,” or to be fair to all, “I hate winter;” are based on personal experience and are completely subjective, but legitimate just the same.  In other words, opinions are not necessarily rationally or factually based; but some of them are.

The fact is, Facebook posts cause widespread anus-twitching and jaw-clenching across the land, especially when the post includes: “I agree with President Trump….”  This one makes people down-right pissy.

However,  I recently use the excuse that I don’t have to react to every post and I usually move on from such posts; a procedure that I comfortably use when one of my Facebook friends on the liberal left shares a post about which I disagree.  It’s pretty cowardly of me, as I’m protecting my own sensitivities toward offense.

Everybody, it seems, is offended these days.  In fact, being a writer, I mused this little ditty a few months ago: “It’s best to assume that everything one writes will offend someone, somewhere, sometime.”  We are an offense-oriented culture.  I’m sorry, but “snowflake,” really seems an apropos moniker for us; ALL of us who are instantly and powerfully offended at a difference of opinion.

After reading a post (Scott Thomas, August 14, 2019) with a conservative point of view, this morning forwarded by my sister-in-law, Marge, excerpts of which are here:

“…my ancestors came here from other countries…learned the language…worked…became citizens…and some served in the military!…  IMMIGRANTS…must adapt…I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture….We speak ENGLISH…Most Americans believe in God…If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our ‘Culture.’  We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why.  All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us… If you aren’t happy here, then LEAVE.  We didn’t force you to come here.  You asked to be here.  So accept the country that accepted you.”

I couldn’t help but think of Robert De Niro’s character in Ronan who, when asked if he had ever killed anyone, replied: “I hurt someone’s feelings once.”

This seems to be the cultural extreme to which we have turned, where murder is equated with offense or hurt feelings.  It’s become a criminal act to disagree with someone and publish it.  The thing is, you set yourself up, in my experience, to be emotionally and mentally abused by ANY and EVERY dissenter.  And, we’ve all seen the extremes of this kind of abuse.  This is the anonymous, internet-age after-all and  EVERYONE with an opinion, openly, loudly, and as nasty as they wanna be, criticizes your opinion.

So, what do we do with the smattering of Biblical Scriptures which counsel us to “take no offense?”  I believe I’ve been working on that character lesson for around five decades.  If anything, it’s become more of a challenge in the internet-age, through social media than it was when I was a “sensitive” teenager, trying to fit in while trying to take a stand for what’s “right.”

Let’s break it down: offense in the biblical context means “at fault.”  Basically, the precept is then, not to take an attitude or behave in a way (share an opinion) that puts you at fault in the character department.  So, if I have done nothing with the obvious intent of hurting another, I have no reason to take offense at the critical backlash of someone with a differing opinion.  I can move on in the knowledge that my intent was righteous.

Some wise advice then might be to “guard your heart.”  Keeping some people at a distance may go a long way in protecting your heart: casual acquaintances; some social media “friends” with whom you have no brick and mortar relationship; and other faux connections.  And, an important and vital tool in guarding your heart is “don’t take criticism from people you wouldn’t take advice from” – Kyle Freedman (Twitter, May 3, 2019).


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