Monday, August 8, 2016

You can choose to be unoffendable

What if you made a choice not to get offended? When someone cuts you off in traffic. When your spouse is rude or your boss is demanding or when the person in the checkout line decides to tell his life story to the cashier, while you wait and are late for a meeting? What would it be like to pull something besides anger out of your toolbox when others do something to annoy you or even hurt you?

That’s the premise of Brant Hansen’s book, "Unoffendable." He writes, “OK, this may sound like the dumbest thing you’ve ever read, but here goes: You can choose to be unoffendable.” Some of you may find that offensive, but hold on. What would your life look like if all the energy you put into getting angry and holding onto grudges and feeling bitter and shutting people out was not spent there but on enjoying life and people and God’s creation?

Hilly is the character in the movie "The Help" that you cannot help but dislike. She is racist to the core, and treats the black woman who works for her like trash. Aibileen is good friends with Hilly’s maid and says to Hilly one day, “Ain’t you tired, Miss Hilly? Ain’t you tired?” It’s a classic scene and that question cuts to the heart of it for all of us. Aren’t we tired of keeping people at arm’s length because they are different? Or of drilling down into everything others say to see if there’s anything there that we should be offended about? Aren’t we tired of having to turn the other way when we see “that” person one aisle over in the drugstore? Aren’t we tired of measuring people’s worth by how much they agree with us or how much they can help us succeed?

Let’s face it, anger is easy to use, but it takes a lot of energy. It takes energy to justify our anger. It takes energy to keep it simmering so the coals don’t cool and we start forgetting how we feel about that person who hurt us. It also takes a lot of energy to quit a job because we’re angry. And to find another one. Or to end a relationship. Or to move. The sad truth, though, is that for some, anger becomes a lifestyle. Hansen writes, “We run into this in our small church community: people come to our group, and they’re tremendously excited about it! They love it! They love us! It’s great! And they want to share! So they tell us about their past church, and how messed up it was because of whatever, and then the church before that, and this other group they had to leave because people were doing such and such -- gee. Think they’ll soon find fault with us too? Of course. It’s a way of life. We get offended; we get disillusioned; we leave. Over and over and over.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to be unoffendable. That does not mean we reduce ‘truth’ to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t mean that there is no truth with a capital T and that everybody’s “truth” is equally valid. Jesus made it clear that He is the way, the truth and the life. He made it clear that unless you come to Him as a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. But Jesus was a friend of sinners. He did not hide from those who opposed Him. He went close. He loved them. He chose to be unoffendable. We can, too.

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