Why the Harsh Words

 

I just don’t get it, and I pray that I never will understand it.    I don’t understand why when two people disagree it has to become so personal.  I fully believe it is possible to disagree with a person and still act like a decent human being toward them.  There is no need for name calling, there is no reason to question someone’s intelligence.

I don’t believe that all Muslims are terrorists.

I don’t believe that all Christians are guiltless.

I don’t believe that all Democrats are evil.

I don’t believe that all Conservatives have my best interest in mind.

I can be concerned about radicals from any religion without hating people.   Just as I am not bothered by those who worry about radical Christians.  Killing an abortion doctor is murder and negates the very thing you are trying to protect… life.    I also don’t believe that everyone working in an abortion clinic is inherently evil, because I truly believe that MOST of them think they are doing the right thing, helping.  Whether I agree with what they are doing or not.

I believe that MOST cops are good and decent people, but that there are a few bad apples.  I’ve never been one to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.  That said I don’t begrudge anyone who has had life experiences that make them weary of those who are in authority.   Authority has been abused, and we can’t ignore that… just as much as we can’t blame everyone.

I believe that MOST people who say and do stupid and careless things are not doing them intentionally.  Perhaps they don’t have the same life experiences to understand cultural sensitivities or realize that certain topics are just taboo.  I know that I am guilty of slinging words carelessly, regardless of what my intention was.  I’ve received some sharp words that cut deep, and I’ve had to weigh them against the person who unleashed them.

I tend to give the benefit of the doubt, forgive a lot, and I am growing more unoffendable every day.

I have a myriad of friends from different backgrounds, culturally and politically.  They have had life experiences of their own, or been influenced by tales of generations before them.  There are those who have walked hard roads, and others who have had it pretty easy.   This means with the current events hitting the news, well … it means I am hearing a lot of people’s perspectives and opinions.  I don’t mind conversation, disagreement, and even some stubbornness.  What is getting harder to accept is the cold, hard, and callous words people are choosing to use.

So much hate.  Why can’t we share our opinions and concerns with out broad generalizations?  Why must we assume guilt on everyone because of what a few have done?  Why can’t we even accept that we may have the slightest chance of being wrong (in part or in total)?

Why the harsh words?  Not feeling the love that we have be called to share with the world… particularly by those who are my family in the faith. 😦

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#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

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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.

BOOK REVIEW: Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.