From time to time a blogger or preacher will offend. Sometimes we offend because we’ve made a mistake, we’ve been arrogant or careless or insensitive to others. It happens. Its a risk you take as soon as you start blogging or preaching. Blogging is especially tricky because it is an instant medium. You write fast and publish and you don’t have an editor. Sometimes you forget that discretion is the better part of valor.
When that happens all we can do is offer sincere apologies. On the other hand, sometimes it is not we who offend, but our message. Often those who are offended cannot distinguish between the two, and mistake the man for the message.
So they start to stone the prophet. It goes with the territory. I have found that there are two types of ammunition used by those who stone the prophet: Hard stones and soft stones. The hard stones are easier to deal with. This is when someone gets angry with you, gives you a piece of their mind, condemns you and tries as hard as they can to hurt you.
The soft stones are harder to deal with. This is when someone who is truly offended pretends to be nice and sweet and kind and helpful. Theirs is the language of hurt feelings and they play the emotional blackmail game, “How could you say such unkind things and hurt me so??” They dress their anger up in careful phrases and kindly words: “I have some deep concerns…I say this trying to help you…” But the kind words are not to make you feel better, but to make them feel better about themselves.
The only way I know to deal with this is to immerse myself as much as possible in the wisdom that comes from the Sacred Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the lives of the saints. These three sources help me to preach the gospel instead of my own opinion. Indeed, whenever I am challenged my reply is, “I have no opinion on the matter. I only try to proclaim the fullness of the Christian faith in the Catholic Church. If I have written anything contrary to that or extra to that, I’m willing to be corrected.”
If we preach faithfully, then we will drive some people away. It can’t be helped. But we will also attract others–and for the right reason. I am always suspicious therefore of any preacher or blogger who never offends anyone at all ever. If that happens, it seems to me, they are working too hard to please everyone–and that’s not the gospel–it’s just a way for the preacher to get some false love and affirmation.
So Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman writes,
For it is our plain duty to preach and defend the truth in a straightforward way. Those who are to stumble must stumble, rather than the heirs of grace should not hear. While we offend and alienate one man, we secure another; if we drive one man further the wrong way, we drive another further the right way. The cause of truth, the heavenly company of saints, gains on the whole more in one way than in the other. — from The Quotable Newman — Ed. Dave Armstrong