When our youngest son does something cute, we laugh. Typically that’s what you do when a seven-year-old is adorable, and there used to be a time when he relished in it. But lately, he immediately gets offended and through tears wails, “Why are you laughing at me?!?” Then it becomes a whole long teaching moment of how we are enjoying a funny scenario together, not thinking to ourselves how ridiculous he is.
(Our 7-year-old is a crack up and super adorable, by the way!)
Child insecurities aside, do you ever feel like you’re walking on eggshells with people? That any little thing you say could easily be misconstrued, so you’re very careful about the words you choose. And even then, it’s usually taken the wrong way.
We’re all just super offended.
Like… All. The. Time.
Do you know why emojis are so popular? I have a theory. Because people started overreacting to stuff typed on social media or blog post comments and creating offense over such insignificant things. So, someone finally went “I wish there was a way to show that I’m being sarcastic without people freaking out on me.” Enter the laughing-til-I-cry emoji, and a host of others to follow (though, frankly, the poop emoji still offends me a bit… I mean… the meaning is pretty clear with that one).
That’s my theory — that we resorted to using animated smiley face icons to make our intentions clear because everyone has a huge chip on their shoulder and can’t manage to give other people — even people they know well — the benefit of the doubt in their intentions.
Of course, the disease of offense has existed for… well, forever. But now, thanks to social media, we overlook the true matters worth being concerned about (such as lonely kids who lash out repeatedly but no one really does anything about it, and then all hell breaks loose and we’re scratching our heads), and, instead, lose our cool because, God forbid, someone politely disagrees with our opinion on sending our kids to public school…. or whether we should save all the earthworms when it rains a lot.
Years and years ago I did a small group study with our church called The Bait of Satan, Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. Have you heard of it? Even if you haven’t heard of it or aren’t interested (the video portion of the study was taped in the ‘80s or something and, while the message is still relevant, it’s certainly an outdated presentation — so I recommend the book), there’s perception altering stuff in it, even for someone who isn’t a devout believer.
Two things I carry with me to this day from that study. The first being on my end, that I shouldn’t “jump” at every little thing that is said to me. Think of the startle reflex a baby has: any loud or unexpected noise and her whole body responds, often causing a ripple effect of tears and a general bummer attitude for awhile.
That’s what we do when we get easily offended. We “jump,” we gasp, we cry about it and let it negatively impact our entire demeanor for a day, week… or even longer. Meanwhile, the other person has no idea what they did wrong. Or, even if they did it intentionally, we’re just sitting here stewing on it and suffering while they’ve totally moved on, no worse for the wear. I still ask myself “Am I jumping?” when I have a negative response to words from another. It provides a good assessment of my mindset.
The other is that broken people take offense. So when you’re over here walking on eggshells around Stewart because, no matter how carefully you choose your words, he’s going to get mad at you about something… take a moment to really examine what all is going on in Stewart’s life. What past hurts may he be holding on to that negatively impact how he filters incoming information, even from reliable and trusted friends or family members? Recognize that 95% of the time the “jump” has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with the brokenness the “jumper” hasn’t dealt with just yet. (Ah-hem, that applies to you too, if you find yourself “jumping” a lot.)
I firmly believe that if we can all (ha!) manage to accept these two truths, we’d be vaccinating ourselves against the epidemic of offense that acts like an out-of-control wildfire coupled with a F5 tornado. (Hey you, “jumper” — this is not a post about the flu vaccine — wrong epidemic — move along.)
Maybe, just maybe, if we all take the time to give each other the benefit of the doubt and, I don’t know, have a calm and gracious conversation about the important things, we’d start to see flame dwindle down to smoke.
Because, you know, if you take away the oxygen, a fire can’t burn anymore. (That’s a metaphor I hope you get, but I won’t be offended if you don’t.)