Her eyes were like lasers, cutting right through me.
It was an innocent gesture. I opened the door to the coffee shop and held it open for the young woman behind me. “Ma’am,” I said as I stepped aside. She took a step back and darted me the look.
My actions were simply following the established model from my father and, before that, his father. These manners resonate deep within me, and I’m happy to see it continue in my sons.
But this time, the innocent gesture created an offense. Suddenly, the act and word felt like a heavy weight hung around my neck, a sign of guilt for the world to see.
I suddenly felt guilty for-I-don’t-know-what. This isn’t the first time that I feel out of place in deeds and words, a holdover from another generation, another world. And I’m not alone, as we are all caught in the changing goalposts regarding speech and conduct.
As a society, there is an offense waiting for us around every corner. Leaders are being forced to resign. Commenters are castigated. Speakers are being silenced.
The compulsory apologies, resignations, and sackings for the most trivial of reasons are rampant. We are learning to live in a narrow world where every action and word is scrutinized.
The labels we unwittingly earn are serious:
Those who once championed free speech on every corner are the same ones who are killing it in the public square, And it won’t be long before the “offended” will soon find themselves as the “offenders.” It’s the full circle of speech.
An addiction to victimhood
Claire Fox wrote a book called, I Find That Offensive , and says this.
“There is a strand of self-absorption and fragility running through this generation; all too ready to cry ‘victim’ at the first hint of a situation they don’t like,” Fox says. “We need a younger generation that’s prepared to grow a backbone, go out into the world, take risks and make difficult decisions.”
Colleges and Universities are breeding grounds for intolerance in the name of tolerance. And microaggressions – those seemingly innocent acts – now pile up in the bank of offense, never to be withdrawn until it’s time to make someone pay.
It seems as if Americans get offended faster and more efficiently than anyone . It’s our calling card, our national pastime. It is the battle we fight and the banner we wave.”
No need to be a bully
There is no need to be a bully, to go out of our way to offend. So, I’m not talking about the name-callers and purposefully rude people. Those of us who are driven by faith are given clear Biblical instruction.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Eph 4.29
We need to respect people, treating them as God sees them. Racism, classism, and a host of other actions are simply wrong. So, I’m not advocating that.
But the Word also tells us that we cannot be easily offended.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” – James 1.19
There are those who are careless, blunt, and mean-spirited. We can’t control what they say, but we can control how we react.
Absolute Truths About Offensive Speech
1) If it wasn’t intended to offend you, then you shouldn’t be offended.
2) You do not get to decide someone else’s intentions. They do.
3) Being offended is a choice you make. Nobody is responsible for that choice but you.
4) Even if the slight was intended and deliberate, functioning adults understand that they must move on and not dwell
We need to learn to shrug things off and find a way to laugh. And if I say something that rankles you, give me a little grace.
And if I hold the door for you, just walk through and smile. No offense intended.