Thursday, August 03, 2006

Giving and Taking Offense.

In the last few weeks, months, even years in our society, we have been too quick to take offense at some slight, perceived or real.

See my post below on the blog comment exchange I had with Elizabeth Kaeton. I used the term "reappraiser" thinking it was emotionally neutral. She took offense at it. Now, being human, we will always be confronted by people who offend out of ignorance - and out of a desire to offend (unfortunately).

As Christians, what should our response be? I find that I am not far wrong when I assume that someone doesn't mean to offend. I often try to educate the offendor that his/her actions or words are offensive. Most of the time, people offend out of ignorance and not out of spite.

What do we do, then, with those who desire to offend? First, I think the most effective thing we can do is to not take offense. They are trying to get a rise out of us. We should react with love and charity towards the offensive people. It disarms them! Particularly in the little cyber-wars we have been having. I find it effective to let my "opponent" rant and rage while I remain (or try to) cool and reasonable. The best defense against offensive speech is to the the offender keep talking! The whole world will see what an ingorant and offensive and close-minded person they are.

How, then, should we behave in our dealings. We will offend someone. We should never never use epithets like "bottom feeder" or "priestess" or "nazi" let alone other epithets. If we find that we have used a term that offends someone, ask for education as to why it is offensive and then find a way to not use it. Sometimes we will be successful and sometimes we won't be successful in not attempting to offend. When in debate, we should always engage the other person's arguments and not their persons.

In short, we need more charity on all sides of the discussion. You cannot claim the "other side" is offensive when you are using terms like "bottom feeder" or "priestess."

Phil Snyder


Lisa said...

Good observations, Phil.

Let me suggest another dimension to this.

What I resent in some of the recent verbiage that masquerades as dialogue is the dehumanization. It's not simply being called a reappraiser that ticks me off; it's when the term is used in a way that seems to imply, "I know all about what 'you people' think and believe and how you act, and you're just a small manifestation of reappraiserdom." I get similarly angry when people refer to "blacks" or "gays." Words convey meaning. And, to me, those kind of terms reveal a belief that the "label" is the only salient fact about the person.

I'll confess, in one of my recent, angry writings one night, I referred in several ways to "you people" and "you reasserters." Fortunately, next morning I awoke with the recognition that that was not fair. More importantly, it was not of Christ. Jesus looked people in the face and dealt with them directly, intimately. So I revised the piece.

Phil, I fear most all of us -- on both sides of the divide -- are treating each other like symbols and not as the full, complex human beings we are.

Peter said...

In Elizabeths case she did not make clear (at least to me) what exactly she was offended about. I was left thinking - well, what terms shall we use? 'Nothing' is not a good answer as there are discernable groupings here.

It seems there are people in the world who will take offense as a screen to avoid the real issue, or to set themselves up on the pedestal of 'victimhood'. That, IMHO, is a sign of immaturity.


plsdeacon said...

Human beings survived early in our evolution by the ability to observe patterns. "hmmm, this plant has three leaves. The last plant that had three leaves left me itching and burning. I'd best not touch it."

Lables are a necessary part of discourse. They flow from the natural categorization that follow patterns. Having said that, none of us fits completely into any pattern. I think we all know that none of us is a pattern, but we all fit for the most part into one or more patterns. Sometimes we even develop sub-patterns to further refine our models for expected outcomes of attitude and behavior.

People speak of the "conservative agenda" or "liberal agenda" even when we know that not every conservative (or liberal) signs on to every point of the overall ideology. It has been my experience that in any group with similar goals, 80% of the group would strongly agree with each goal, but it is not the same 80%. For example, I might like goals 1, 3, and 5. You might like 2, 3, & 5. Someone else might like 1, 5, & 7.

When we self-identify with a group (such as LGTB or Gay) then we identify that we support a lot of what most of the members in that group support. We don't support it all and (until recently) we didn't have to support it all.

This brings up the idea of political orthodoxy enforcement. But that's another post.

Phil Snyder

aterry said...

Great thoughts...

Some may consider my approach simplistic, but concerning "giving and taking offense", I personally pray daily that the Lord make my hide tough and my heart tender. In theh hopes that I'd be more atuned to others while allowing offenses to bounce harmlessly away. This is an ongoing prayer and I'm happy to say that its being answered.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

"the natural categorization that follow patterns."

Might this be part of Sin?

Just might.

It might be useful for you to know, that for me as a non native English speaker, these 2 re-a... simply don't mean a thing in themselves (= Neo Platonist word theory is wrong).

I have to stop everytime

Now, which one was this?