11.01.2010

Offended

It's popular to be offended.

Just turn on one of the 24-hour news channels. You can be certain that within the hour, you'll see a talking head who is offended about something. And you'll see another talking head responding to the crisis, doing damage-control of some sort. And still another head in support of the first head, and another head in opposition to the first head.

Granted, many of the issues and circumstances in question are truly inexcusable. Not all of them should be easily brushed aside, and often, they do merit discussion and apologies. But other times...not so much.

One of the minor characters in the 1980 movie Popeye constantly shuffles around throughout the entire movie muttering to the other characters, "You owe me an apology!" He can't get past that point. And Popeye wants one too: "Another thing I got is a sensk of humiligration," he says through his corn-cob pipe. "Now, maybe you swabs can pool your intelligensk and sees that I'm axking you for an apologeky."

In the midst of all the bristling, all the incivility, and all the rancor, it has become way too commonplace to see the media spotlight shift almost daily to a new offended personality, group, or country. No need to cite examples here. If I did, I would almost certainly offend someone in this discussion of the tiresome stream of hurt feelings on every front. But it is very telling that googling the word "offended" produced plenty of current news stories on the topic. Maybe the Today Show's Willard Scott should start recognizing the offended person of the day rather than the centenarians.

Offended-ness is apparently good for ratings and readership. You probably clicked on this blog post because you wanted to know why I was offended. It makes for a dramatic storyline for viewers to follow. It gives them something to shake their heads about. To rant about. But the more it piles on, the more apologies are demanded, the more angry everyone gets...the more fragile the eggshells become...the eggshells that we tread upon as human beings interacting with one another on this planet. The stifling cultural environment of political correctness is enough to make one reluctant to tread at all. Or tweet the wrong way. Or breathe the wrong way.

Based on the barometer of the media, it appears that there is a general shortage of love that is being extended from human to human...both from those who trespass, and from those who are trespassed against. Not much grace. Not much understanding. Yes, these are hot-button days filled with hot-button issues. But just like that guy from Popeye, there are an awful lot of people shuffling around, muttering (or, in some cases, howling) that someone owes them an apology. It wears on the collective consciousness at the national level, and on the personal level, it affects our relationships with others.

Love is not easily offended, says 1 Corinthians 13. Love has a pretty thick skin. Love can take it. Other people are always going to say and do stupid things...and so are we. But love covers over a multitude of sins. Covers them. Makes them invisible.

Wish you could take back what you said because it offended someone? Love can do that. Offended by what someone said to you? Forgiveness is a mighty, mighty force, demonstrated most supremely by Christ himself, putting the brakes on the downward spiral of apology-demands and wounded psyches. Like a pre-emptive strike. Or a forcefield against the assault of ensuing bitterness.

The only way back.

I need it. You need it. Talking heads need it. Churchy people and non-churchy people need it. Marriages need it. Social networkers need it. It is the unexpected, the supernatural, the refreshing and blessed balm of forgiveness...extended to those who don't deserve it. Jesus did just that...even though he could have just said he was "offended" and walked away. That is the humble force that can shake the world, both for the offended and the offender. It can shake it more than the value of the dollar, more than the quality of our educational system, even more than politics that are on display tonight.

So let's all give each other a big fat break. The world needs it.

Until next time,

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