#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

offendable

It was well over twenty years ago, when I would I would dye my hair bright teal.  For the record, I knew that it would get some judgmental stares.  I fully anticipated it, and I also didn’t care in the least.   A few years later, I would walk into a tattoo shop and walk back out with black ink permanently embedded into my skin.  I knew that some wouldn’t appreciate the art I had etched into my body, but I didn’t care what people thought as a whole.  As of today, I have a few more tattoos.  Even though they have become more mainstream than fringe, I am aware of how others still view them.

I recall sitting in a woman’s home, having coffee, as we talked about the world.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened but the subject of people with tattoos came up.  She was very judgmental of anyone with tattoos, stating that if someone from the utility companies showed up with tattoos all over … well, she wouldn’t let them in the door.  I chuckled to myself as I debated if I wanted to take off my sweater and expose my tattooed arms, or if I would save that expose’ for another day.

Here’s the thing, when I choose to do something that is outside the norm, that is considered edgy or fringe, or that is socially disapproved… I am not only choosing to do what ever that thing is.  I am also choosing to live the consequences of that choice, including how others perceive me.  I will never scoff at their remarks or stares because, that’s their problem not mine.  I am not exactly sure where we got the notion that the world has to tolerate our idiosyncrasies.  Certainly I am not going to advocate for rudeness, discrimination, et’al … it is NOT OK.  I’m simply suggesting that one can’t go against the grain and expect zero negative response at worst… or curiosity at least.

I was watching a television show on people who are “fringe” and what was interesting is that so many of the people who had tattoos spoke of an unwritten rule that we don’t ask about each others tattoos.  Not only was I unfamiliar with this rule, I didn’t get it either.  I see every tattoo as a piece of art, it has meaning and purpose for me.  So please, ask me about it.  I’ll happily share what it means to me, or answer your questions (even the absurd ones).

Questions Like:  Did it hurt a lot?  (Um, yes.)  What does it mean?  (Glad you asked…) What if your weight changes? (Kind of personal, but I considered it…)  How are you going to feel about that when you are 80?  (If I make it to 80, pretty sure my tattoos will be the least of my worries…)   Or, the big question:  Doesn’t the Bible forbid tattoos?  (Let’s sit down and talk about that one… )

There are a lot of things that any person (Christian or not) could do that is considered against the grain.  And, when we make such decisions we should expect that someone is going to question us about it.  We should expect that we are going to get stares, and that not everyone is going to understand our decision.

Have a large family? Or a family of blended races?  That’s unusual for many areas.  Expect the questions.

Decide to dress ultra conservative?  Someone might ask you why you are wearing a long sleeve turtleneck, in Florida, in July.

Choose to wear a headscarf at church, or in your every day life?  Expect someone is going to talk to you about that.

Make a major switch in your life (in one direction, or another) and people will notice.  Anticipate they are going to be curious as to why you made that decision.

Decide to sell off everything you own and follow Jesus into full time missions?  You better believe that someone is going to think you are crazy!

Where I have noticed a growing trend is that when people make these “fringe” decisions, that make them stand out against the norm, they get offended when anyone questions them about it.  You can’t be IN the world but not OF the world, and go unnoticed.  In fact, the whole point of it is TO BE NOTICED.  That our lives become a living testimony to the changes that God has done in our lives, our families, etc.  They see us as different, they want to know why.  This not the same as putting on an act of righteousness, boasting,  and showing off how holy we are.  I’m talking about real, genuine, every day living the life that God called me to, type of different.   Where we are not putting on a show for others, but just living out our every day in a different way.

The questions that we are being offended by, and offering a slew of snarky retorts in response to … are INVITATIONS TO SHARE.

Yes, these children are all mine.  Yes, some are adopted.  Yes, we are fostering a sibling group.  Why did we make this choice?  Because, the Lord pressed upon our hearts that we had enough love in our home to share.  There are so many kids in our foster system just looking for someone to love them, a place to call home.

Yes, I do have a few tattoos.  Sure, you can see it.   Yes, getting one does hurt, some areas more than others.  What does it mean?  Well, this anchor represents the fact that I am anchored by my faith, the compass reminds me of where I have been & where I am going, and the dove represents the hope I have in Christ.

Yes, we are moving to another country.  It is hard to leave our home, but we realized it was just a building.  Our hearts are not here… they are a long plane ride away.  No, not everyone is called to do this.  We prayerfully considered it and brought others in to the fold to pray along with us.  God continually affirmed the calling with his provisions, blessings, and divine appointments.

We could be offended by everything, or we can look at it is an opportunity to share.

I can be offended.

~ OR ~

I can be inviting.

Consider… if a person can’t ask you a simple question… about the size of your family, the way you dress, or about the ink on your skin…

What can they safely ask you?

When you have been snarky and responded to their questions with contempt, disgust, or curtly…   Do you really think they want to talk to you about the big stuff? Raising children?  Adoption?  Abortion?  Gay Marriage?  God and salvation through Jesus Christ?

Your quick off the cuff retorts are not inviting them into conversation.  Instead you are pushing them away, you are letting them know you are not a safe person to talk to.

And if that is how you are responding…. What kind of light are you shining in this dark world?

Ask me anything.  I won’t be offended.  I will answer your questions.  Sometimes a question is just a question, a curiosity.  Sometimes a question is an attempt to understand a person, situation, or belief better.  BUT… sometimes… a question is an invitation into a bigger and better conversation.

Advertisements

#Write31Days – Post 7 – Dishonorable Agreement

20130324_141716

Have you ever found yourself arguing with your husband about something, and you feel like you are just going around in circles?  Or, perhaps, you feel like your opinions and feelings on the subject are being sucked to the bottom like a whirlpool in the ocean?  Have you spent years battling over the same subject, that now you don’t even bother to bring it up?  You may have even moved into the position of:  “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

I totally get it.  I really, truthfully do.  On certain subjects my husband and I could not have opinions that are further apart.  In fact, depending on the actual subject at hand, either one of us can be a dominating force.  It has taken us YEARS to find that place of compromise, or at least to feel as if we are both being heard.

I am also the type of person who will want to continue to hash out the discussion until I totally understand his decision.  If it doesn’t make sense to me, a simple “I said no” isn’t going to fly.  It’s not even that I am challenging his decision, but more that I want to understand the WHY behind it.  In some instances I am also looking to grasp the permanence of his decision.  It this a “no, forever” or a “no, not right now” response?

Recently, in a discussion group, a woman posed the question:

“How do I honor my husband when I don’t agree with him?”

You can honor your husband, and still disagree with him.  The honor lies in HOW you disagree with him.    Just as you can dishonor your husband when you agree with his decision, because HOW you are in agreement make a difference.

  • Don’t mumble under your breath, that’s dishonorable.
  • Ask if there is any room for compromise, that’s honorable.
  • Don’t give him the silent treatment, that’s dishonorable.
  • Ask if you can revisit the topic in a few months, that’s honorable.
  • Don’t withhold affection from him, that’s dishonorable.
  • Try to see his perspective and understand his reasoning, that’s honorable.
  • Don’t assume you know what he is thinking, that’s dishonorable.
  • Ask for an explanation, and have a willingness to accept it, that’s honorable.

When we can be honorable toward our husband, even when we disagree, we are keeping the lines of communication open.

You want to buy a new potting bench for the patio, so you ask your husband.  He says no.  You ask why, and he responds that there isn’t room in the budget which is already being stretched tight.  Instead of pouting, you can ask questions like…

Can we afford a used one?  If so, what is my maximum budget?  —  Could we build one for less?  Would you help me? — If I sold off a few of my own things, would you be ok with me spending that money to buy it?  — Can we discuss it again after we get our tax return?

By asking these questions you are actually honoring your husband, despite disagreeing or being unhappy with his decision.   You are attempting to understand the situation a bit more, looking for compromise, and with a better attitude.

However, if you walk away from the discussion angry… pouting around the house, giving him the silent treatment for days or weeks, withholding affection until you get your way, calling up a friend or family member and berating your spouse, disrespecting him in front of the kids by blaming him for why they can’t have/do something, etc… you are not honoring your husband in the least.

This is not to say that we can’t be disappointed, not at all.  It’s ok to be disappointed or sad about his decision; it is not ok to punish him for it or to carry anger and bitterness towards him over it.  It’s not ok to manipulate him into getting your own way, or call others onto your team to pressure him to fold.

We also need to be aware of the bigger picture, to have a full understanding of his decisions or opinions.  He may have information you don’t, the timing of the conversation may be wrong, he could have simply had a bad day, or any number of other factors.

Look for solutions, look for compromise, or look to God to help you be content with the decision you don’t agree with.

Honorable Disagreement.  Dishonorable Agreement.

It’s your decision, your choice on how you respond.

On the big things… the life impacting decisions… I hold firm that if God wants us to move in that direction both spouses will share that same conviction, calling, or direction.  If there is disagreement, it is because the “call” is something one of you is feeling in the flesh, or it just isn’t time to take that step yet.

If you are having a hard time being honorable in disagreement, start in prayer.  Take a step back, and pray over it.  When you have tempered yourself, have a discussion to understand his perspective.  Then, before you respond, take some time to think his response through.  Do some research, come up with an alternative solution, develop a plan of action, and then make some time to talk about it again.

BOOK REVIEW: Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

genawhat

I have always considered myself an even-keeled person.  In general, I don’t get offended easily.  I try to give the benefit of the doubt to people.  So I might ask, “What’s the big deal?” or “Why are you getting so mad about that?”.  I might even play devils advocate a bit to try and understand the other side’s point of view before I get upset.  There may even be times where I don’t agree with a person, but I also accept they are entitled to their opinion or feelings on an issue.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize there on only a few things that can offend me.

1) Outright, purposeful attacks on a person.

2)  The misuse of the Word of God.

That all said, I admit that I get angry about a lot of things.  I just generally try not to hold onto that anger for very long.  I know it’s not healthy.  I also know… I am probably wrong.

Once my husband said something that really upset me.  Funny thing was that even though I was upset, I knew I shouldn’t be.  He recognized all the signs that I was upset and tried to mend it.  I admitted to him:

I am mad.  But, I am not entirely sure I should be mad at you.  So give me some time to simmer down, and then we’ll talk more.   If we do this now, I’ll probably say something dumb and not very helpful.”

I think I surprised him with my candidness, but truthfully I wasn’t sure I should be mad at him.  I was trying to handle the situation with wisdom, in spite of being angry.  It worked too, because about 30 minutes later, you betcha… I was not angry any more.  We laughed about it and moved on.

But, anger doesn’t always work that way.  Once, a friend said something that offended me.  I called her on it, because this wasn’t the first time she had been careless with her words.  I tried to give her an opportunity to clarify her point, in case I was misunderstanding her.  But, I wasn’t.  I was hurt.  I was offended (it was a #2 situation).  I was angry.  I won’t deny my initial response.

I also wasn’t surprised by it.  I had seen this coming, and made some effort to try and derail it but she never wanted to discuss it with me.  When I called her on her behavior, she just stopped talking to me.  After many attempts to try and rectify it, I gave up.  That was when I got a letter in the mail from her.  A multi-page letter that wasn’t exactly accurate & frankly tore me to shreds.  I was again hurt, angry and offended (this time it was a #1 situation).

And even then, I tried to give the benefit of the doubt.  I still tried to repair & reconcile, but she wasn’t receptive.  She had shut me out.  And that was when I decided that I just couldn’t be angry anymore.  Instead, I was going to pray for her, every time I felt that hurt well up again, I would pray for her.  Things were going ok, until I came across the letter when cleaning out my desk.  I thought I had thrown it away.

I was tempted to read it again.  I knew that it wouldn’t be healthy, and so…. I set it on fire.

letterfire

I really try not to hold on to anger, but sometimes I just can’t.  Even without reading it, all of those emotions came back to the surface again.  A fire consumes everything around it, and so does anger.  When we get angry, when we are angry people, that anger will consume everything around us.  I realized that day, as the paper went  up in flames, she was an angry person.  This anger was deeper than what ever I could have said to upset her.  Again, I knew that God would want me to be praying for her.  So, I did… as the flames reduced the paper to ash… my anger was reduced to compassion.

You may be wondering why I am bringing this up, if I healed from it, and what this has to do with a book review….

Good question… and a great book.  Brant Hansen wrote a terrific book called “Unoffendable”, and let me tell you it has everything to do with the story I just shared.  And so much more.

unoffendable2

His words, thoughts, on the subject of anger in this book… were SPOT on.

First, I had to spend sometime thinking about myself.  How many times I have gotten angry at a person for doing the very things (or similar) that I myself am guilty of.  I was angry at my friend for being careless with her words, but I know there have been times I am guilty of that too.  With my spouse?  My kids?  That person who cut me off in traffic?

unoffend1

I also recalled that my friend was angry, a lot… about a lot of things.  Remember how I stated that I recognized that her anger was deeper than whatever it was I could have said to upset her.    I think that when you have lived a tough life, you will begin to believe you have the right to be angry about everything that is done to you.  Perhaps you didn’t feel like you were allowed to be angry at those who hurt you as a child, or in a previous relationship.  You may begin to think that you have empowered yourself by expressing anger towards anyone who upsets you in the future.  You may feel justified in this anger, but the scriptures have a LOT to say about being angry, holding on to anger, and inflicting others with our anger.

 unoffend3

But, in the end… we have only cast ourselves as victims.  We never own our part in a conflict, because we have convinced ourselves that we are right, and have a right to be angry.  Even though the scriptures clearly call us to forgive and to reconcile.

unoffend2

I took these pictures as I was reading the book, because they were just such strong points, I wanted to share them with my friends and family on facebook.  Guess, what… I am not the only one who needed to learn a thing or two.

unoffendable

And a few more sentiments like that followed, so yes… a hundred times repeated… I think anyone would benefit from reading this book.  It’s written pretty straight forward, and if you have ever heard Brant on the radio…  you will hear his voice in your head as you read.  It’s a little unsettling at first, ha, but I just rolled with it.

Seriously though, it is well written and thought out.  It reads, in some ways, like a conversation.  I would find myself stopping after a paragraph or a few pages, shouting out “YES!” or “THIS IS SPOT ON”… and a few times “I am such an idiot.”  Then I would sit back in my chair and let Brant continue on sharing how being unoffendable, getting rid of anger and forgiving people is freeing.  Not just for specific situations, but for life in general.  Because, it becomes a part of your daily life. You simply decide to NOT be offended.  Ever. Again.  You are not going to hold on to anger.  Any. More.

… and you are going to forgive.  More. Than. Ever.

* The book “Unoffendable” was given to me by Family Christian for the sake of reviewing.  The opinions within this review are entirely my own and not influenced by Family Christian.

THE WORDS FELL OUT OF HIS MOUTH

MBA

 

This is a phrase I have begun to use recently, a lot, in regards to my husband.    I think it is fairly accurate.  My husband has a tendency to say things without putting a whole lot of thought to it.  Some times, it is reactionary.   He may not have time to really think through a politically correct response.  Other times, he may be tired from a long day and things slip out in a manner he never intended.  The words literally  just seem to fall out of is mouth.  Like when you spill your coffee, it isn’t intended … but happens.

Once my husband was asked a question about a friend of ours.  He laughed and blurted out a seemingly innocent response.  It wasn’t until he recounted the conversation to me later, that he realized the error he had made.  He responded without qualifying the answer.  So it sounded HORRIBLE, when in reality  it really wasn’t.   Fortunately, I was able to clear things up.

There was another time when my husband was attempting to make me feel better about something, but as the words fell out of his mouth… they did some damage.  In this instance, he realized it immediately.  But the words had been said, he could only apologize.

I could be super annoyed at my husband, I could chide him for being reckless with his words.  I do try to steer him in the right direction, or coach him on a better way to say things.  I do try and encourage him to stop and think before he responds.  But, there are times when the words that fall out of his mouth are SPOT ON.  They may sting a bit, could use a little sugar coating… but he is absolutely correct.

There are are also times when words fall out of my mouth.

With my children, when I respond in anger or frustration, as an example.

Scripture warns us that the tongue is a formidable foe, and needs taming.

Words that fall from our mouths are just as dangerous as bricks falling from wall, and wrecking balls swinging out of control.

Words fall out, when we haphazardly drop that bit of gossip.  Words fall out, when we lose our temper.  Words fall out, when we are disappointed.  Words fall out, when we are frustrated or hurt.  Words fall out, when we make promises we can’t keep (or never intended to).

Words that fall out, have a tendency to hurt.  They leave a hole, where they once were.  Repair and restoration needs to be made.

And, I personally think… the words that fall out hurt far more than the ones that are thrown at you.  Because you never see them coming.