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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 23: Neither Offend Nor Be Offended

A colleague and I enjoyed engaging in deep conversations about a myriad of topics. He and I thought very differently and hearing his perspective often challenged my thinking. One particular conversation challenged not only my thinking, but also resulted in a lifestyle change.

One time we were discussing the common biblical teaching not to offend others. My colleague challenged me to consider the other side of the coin, how easily a person is offended. I had never considered the responsibility of the person being offended, only that of the person doing the offending. His challenge to me was to not only seek to avoid offending others, but to take care that I was not easily offended by others.

In the days and weeks, and even now years later, I think of this conversation. It changed my perspective and helped me to differentiate between what deserved to be considered offensive and what was merely annoying, what I disagreed with, what made me uncomfortable, or what hurt my feelings. I realized that most things are not worth being offended by.

Those things that were truly offensive (sex trafficking, children dying of hunger, discrimination, etc.) were things that needed to be removed from the human experience. They did not deserve an "I'm offended, I'll have nothing to do with that" reaction, but a "that's offensive to God and humanity and it needs to be stopped" response. Those things that I disagreed with, that made me uncomfortable, that were annoying, or that hurt my feelings required a whole different type of response and could range from just letting it go to addressing it in a healthy, responsible way.

When do you think it's appropriate to be offended and how would you respond?

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