To be Offended

I find it interesting that the Lord included the fact that people would be offended in the last days.

May 22-28

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A great many of the concepts taught by Christ in this week’s chapter surround His Second Coming. He teaches about what the world will look like. He warns us, and He comforts us. He tells us to be prepared for it. 

There was one verse in particular that caught my attention.

Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

The word that caught my attention this week is the word “offended.” I think it’s fascinating that the Lord chose to use this word of all words when describing our day. 

To be offended

Our world is filled with people who are offended by others. I think one of the things that kills me most about this concept is the fact that there may be some who read this post and think, “Yeah! Stop being offended! It’s dumb!” And yet, my greatest hope for this post is that everyone (including myself) will take a look internally rather than externally to check themselves instead of their neighbor. If you’re looking at your neighbor, it is highly likely that you’ve found yourself offended by their actions. 

To be offended usually comes from a series of personal actions or thoughts. Let’s look at an actual example to explore what I mean. When you are faced with someone who has said something highly offensive, there are a million different ways to respond. Getting offended means that you have: 

1) made a judgment call on what the other person means that may or may not be correct 

2) disregarded the other person as a child of God

3) given your power away

Let’s talk about each, but before we delve too deeply into the concept of being offended, I want to give a quick disclaimer. I want to talk about meekness because as far as this article is concerned, I’m going to use it as the opposite of getting offended. I think it’s important to note that there have been times in history when teachings of meekness have been twisted into controlling people. However, in my mind, meekness shouldn’t make you vulnerable to manipulative people. In fact, meekness in its true form should make you more immune to manipulation. You can hold expectations for people around you, stand up for what you believe, and stick up for others without getting angry. Being meek has nothing to do with letting people get away with treating you wrong. It has everything to do with holding onto your peace of mind which is exactly what manipulative people would like to destroy.

Making a judgment call on the situation

In order to be offended, you have to make a judgment call about a situation. You have to assume that you knew exactly what the other person meant, and you have to assume negative intent. There are plenty of times when negative intent was deliberate. I’m not saying that in order to “not be offended,” you always have to assume positive intent. You don’t. Heavenly Father gave us faculties of mind so that we could protect ourselves and our happiness. There are mean people out there, and Jeffrey R. Holland “would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor.” But it is important to understand that you have a judgment call to make and it shouldn’t be done rashly, especially in the case of near-strangers. Though there are mean people, there are also very good people who would be horrified to find out they’ve said something offensive. 

Believe it or not. When you’ve chosen to be offended by someone, you have judged. This judgment may or may not be correct, and it’s really important to be aware of that.

Disregarding the other person as a child of God

This one may seem a little melodramatic. Just because you chose to respond with sarcasm doesn’t mean you completely disregarded the other person. Or does it?

In the best case scenario, the person who has committed the offense didn’t mean to. They weren’t trying to cause problems or hurt anyone. Responding immediately with scoffing means you care little about the fact that you’re standing before a good person. It means you took one comment and made a summation of their entire character and found it lacking. When you think about someone you truly respect, would you ever speak to them while rolling your eyes or spitting out a comment? I would hope not, not if you truly respect and admire them. To recognize someone as a child of God requires respect. There is no way around it. If you truly recognize someone as the divine being they are, you have to hold a measure of respect. They’re undeniably inseparable. And all of the scoffing, scorning, and sarcasm is incongruent with respect. You have disregarded their divine nature.

In the worst case scenario, the person who committed the offense definitely meant to injure you and put you down. And this is the most difficult case of all. It’s the most difficult because it requires you to be the biggest person you’ve ever been. It requires you to look at the other human and ask, “Who made you this way? What happened to you? Who would I be if I were in your shoes?” It doesn’t require sticking around so that you can get beat down for the rest of your life, but it does mean recognizing the dramatic effect of circumstances on another human being. It also means recognizing that the mean person in front of you is capable of change and healing (at least in most cases…sometimes mental illness is involved and that’s a different animal completely). 

When faced with a toxic or manipulative person, meekness can take many forms. Meekness can mean telling the other person that what they did was wrong. It can mean stepping away from that person or setting up appropriate boundaries. The action of meekness may differ, but the attitude always says, “I don’t know why you act how you act. I hope you figure out that it’s not a happy way to live, and I know that I don’t have to let it affect me.” This kind of feeling allows you to have appropriate boundaries while still respecting the other person as a person.

Giving away your power

When you choose to be offended, you give away your power. You may disagree. Choosing to be offended can be a heady feeling. It can feel empowering to feel as though you’re saying, “No! No more! I will not stand for this any longer!” And I want you to feel empowered. I want you to be so sure of your worth that you don’t let anyone abuse you. I also want you to be so sure of your worth that you don’t let anyone take away your peace of mind. I want you to be so sure of your worth that you can approach the situation in the most powerful way possible. 

Sometimes that approach will look like Jesus cleansing the temple. There is such a thing as righteous anger. There are perfectly appropriate times to send things crashing down, but I also want you to picture this scenario.

Some Pharisees are watching the Savior forgive someone. They scoff and mumble under their breaths that He is blasphemous for forgiving sins. In that moment, Christ could have said, “Enough! I am your Savior! I created you! Who do you think you are?!” Arguing and yelling ensues. But instead, He looked them dead in the eye and said, “What’s harder? Forgiving sins or telling a paraplegic to walk?” And then He just heals the dude. 

Losing your cool to someone who never meant any harm just makes you look childish and immature. Losing your cool to someone who definitely meant harm will not actually achieve anything. It will not make them treat you better. It will not likely make them question their actions and attitudes. You have to own up to the fact that when you react emotionally, it’s because you want something to change. It’s also key to recognize that reacting emotionally will so rarely give you the change you’re looking for. 

Choosing to be meek means that you look at the other person and say (externally or internally), “You do not have the power to take away my peace or happiness. I know who I am. I hope you figure out who you are, but if you don’t, I still know my worth.” Because if someone is truly trying to hurt you, that’s what they’re trying to take away. They’re trying to take away your sense of worth. Don’t give them the indication that they have the power to do so.

It also takes away the most important power you have: the power to make a difference in someone else. Getting offended doesn’t often change the other person (which would be the best case scenario, right?). It usually just results in polarization, and polarization is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when humanity is trying to achieve a happier society. Choose to hold onto one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for positive change: charity and compassion.

Hate and betrayal

There are steps you have to take almost instantly when choosing to be offended. But there are also effects that occur as a result of choosing to be offended or choosing to be meek. In the verse where Christ warns us of people getting offended in the last days, He also warns us that people will betray and hate one another. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those three things came together in one verse.

I once watched a TED Talk given by a woman who used to be a part of the Westboro Baptist Church. If you’re unfamiliar with their teachings, they are a group motivated by their hatred of others. They actively go out into communities in order to be angry, loud, and contentious. They are taught to do this from a young age. They are well-known for actively hating and opposing the LGTBQ community, soldiers, other Christian groups, atheists, Jews, and Muslims. They literally teach that God hates these people.

Anyway. This young woman used to be a part of this group. One of the ways in which she “fought sin” was to log into community forums like Twitter and spread hatred against the previously mentioned groups. Her exit from the Westboro Baptist Church did not come about by people who became offended by her angry and hurtful words; she encountered plenty of people who actively hated her back. No, she left Westboro Baptist Church because the very groups she actively despised reached out to her in compassion and curiosity. There were people who were brave enough to turn the other cheek, learn about her beliefs, and resist the urge to be offended by her deeply hurtful words. Because of their curiosity, they were able to find inconsistencies in her beliefs that she had missed. And because of their kindness, she was able to humanize them and listen to those inconsistencies. (If you’re interested in the TED Talk, here it is:

Her hateful protests at funerals, bar mitzvahs, and pride parades turned into a lifetime of trying to make amends. 

You may believe that it’s not your responsibility to teach someone else what’s right, and maybe you’re correct. Their parents should have taught them. But it’s also not your responsibility to scoff and scorn and yet this is the path we so often take. Getting offended is so often the result of weariness from suffering, and yet, the offenders are likely carrying their own suffering that we know nothing about.

Christ loves each of us. He loves you. He asks you to love your brothers and sisters and enemies, not only because He loves each of them but because He loves you

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