Why Are We So Easily Offended?

The Supreme Court is hearing a case in which two Jewish women sued their small town for opening civic events with overtly Christian prayers. They took offense. It’s an interesting case, if you want to read about it there’s a good article here.

Let me say up front that I’m not a fan of Christians who take pride in “praying in Jesus’s name” at public events at which it is obvious that people of other or no faith are part of the gathering. It’s just not the humble stance that Christians should always take. It seems like bravado, a way of saying, “Suck it nerds, this is a Christian nation – deal with it!” I think it seems like petty, immature behavior that does more harm than good.

That being said, those who so easily take offense at someone else’s petty or immature behavior, seem to be giving into the lesser angels of their own nature as well. I get that it is annoying and even troubling when people puff up with religious bravado. But to become highly offended, especially to the point of filing a lawsuit and pursuing it to the Supreme Court, may not be the best approach to a peaceful world among people of different faiths. It’s different if there is real injury happening. I’m not sure there’s real injury in this case of flippant or insensitivity in  public prayer. What do you think of this?

I do think that Richard Rohr’s is teaching is helpful here.

The Small Self: this is Rohr’s name for our ego. Only the human ego has an intense need to feel right, admired, important, successful, have status, look good, etc. Rohr calls the ego the “small self” because it’s so much more flimsy and useless than our true self. When we are living out of our small self we are easily offended, petty, and immature. The small self is so fragile that it has to constantly self protect. The small self defines itself over and against other people – it always needs an enemy and needs to win. If we are constantly offended by other people’s thoughts and actions, if we constantly feel the need to point out where everyone else is wrong and we are right, then we know that we are living primarily out of our small self. This is a miserable way to live.

The True Self: In contrast to the flimsy and fragile small self, the true self is largely invulnerable to offense. This is because the true self isn’t something we create/generate, but is something that we receive from God. The true self is the created self, the person God has made us to be. That self is safe from all hard because it is “Hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3). The true self does not need to appear strong because it is strong. It doesn’t take offense because it is able to forgive offenses in real time – immediately – without having to set the record straight or inform somebody of how they are wrong. The true self feels compassionate instead of offended. This is a joyful way to live.

If we are easily offended we are highly invested in our own ego, our own small self. A sign of true spiritual maturity is that we simply don’t become offended by others. We forgive others in real time as we also forgive ourselves. I shudder to think how much of my life is lived out of my small self, my ego.

What’s amazing about this is that all it takes to begin to subvert the small self is to observe it … see it for what it really is. All we have to do in order to begin to live out of our true self is to observe the ways in which we don’t, and then we will begin to see our ego loose traction in our lives. I am learning to pay attention to the times in which I feel offended. They tell me much more about myself, then the person, place, or thing to which I’ve taken offense.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • HematitePersuasion

    That’s an interesting essay, and based on a good story. I say story, because that’s how it starts off. Once upon a time, there were two offended Jews …

    And your conclusion flows quite naturally from that story.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s the case. Why do you say they were offended?

    Maybe, as they listened to those exclusive Christian prayers, they were sad, because if felt like the community was rejecting them. And, they thought, it would feel like the community was rejecting others, too. Sikhs. Muslims. Buddhists. Every single time, every single prayer … they were all told they were unwanted rejects. And so, they asked the community not to be so exclusive. They had a right to be there, everyone had a right to be there and not feel unwanted.

    Because a lawsuit generally isn’t the first step in this process — it’s the last.

    But when they asked, the community said, No, it’s not a mistake. We know we’re excluding you. We don’t want you in our community. We don’t like you. Go away. And this made everyone who wasn’t Christian sad. It probably even made some of the Christians sad, to see that kind of treatment of their neighbors and colleagues.

    So, to right this injustice, two Jews filed a lawsuit. You are breaking the law, they said. And to right this injustice, for everyone in our community who is not a Christian, we will go to the time and trouble and expense of asking a court to right this wrong.And although it took them some time, they did. And then, everyone in the community could feel welcome.

    That story doesn’t support your essay so well, though. But it’s a good story, too.

    As a final thought, even if your story were right, why do you get to judge that these two persons did or did not suffer “real injury”? Shouldn’t that be their decision? It’s all very easy for you, who are not inconvenienced nor hurt to say this is not “real injury”, but to defecate on their statement and voice and speech by silencing them . . .

    . . . but of course that’s another story. I don’t know that that is what you’re doing. But I’ll admit I don’t have another story for it.

    Edit: fix formatting

  • Sven2547

    Two people are pushing back against government-endorsed Christian-supremacy.
    Instead of supporting them, and agreeing with the concepts of basic religious equality and plurality, Christians far and wide are responding with spite. “Why are we so easily offended?” is ignoring the actual issue, and trying to make it about those two Jews instead.

  • Ray Shive

    I hope you’ll not be easily offended if it is suggested that you explore the difference between “loose” and “lose”. (Middle off the last paragraph).


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