To Offend or Not to Offend--That is Not the Question

Back when I was still driving under the influence of Calvinism, I crashed my friend Nate's dinner party one night.  Another guest and I got out the claws, but this was not the usual cat-fight. Nope. We were two theological cats howling about interpretations of the Bible. She argued that the lost who haven't heard the gospel are possibly going to be saved. I, having just read John Piper's "Let the Nations be Glad" for the third or fourth time, argued that they are not. Our caterwauling barely lasted two minutes, but I could see she was appalled. By me.

Not exactly the first time I've gotten that reaction. Certainly not the last. Having gone from being a right wing nut case to being a squishy squeaky left wing wacko, I know that expressing any opinion at all regardless of content is certain to offend someone. Telling 'em they're going to hell if they don't believe in Jesus is sure to offend some one. Telling 'em that you think all people will be saved is sure to offend another some one. 

Heck (give me credit for restraining my potty-mouthed tendencies), in the politically charged culture in America, merely eating an innocent hamburger at McDonald's is sure to bring the wrath of PETA, the censure of anti-obesity leagues, and maybe even the tisk-tisks random Hindus. 

But let's stop here. If you think this is a post about how we should all quit offending one another and start getting along--well, sorry. My point is more that we should all stop being so thin-skinned. Guess what folks? There are people out there who do things that you disagree with and hold opinions you find abhorrent.  Lots of 'em in your family too, I bet.  So get used to it!  That's the world we live in. 

I have a really intense mind--today I woke up at 3 AM and my mind was going full steam ahead. I got up and did my normal hyper-charged puttering around routine.  Did laundry (only use cold water, no bleach, hang on a line to dry), drank four large cups of Earl Grey tea and one cup of Mate, read the New York Times, The Atlantic Wire, and other random stuff, did my TESOL homework, based in the glory of a well-written paper on marketing segmentation, and of course opened Facebook.

Facebook and I have been pretty chummy these days.  It's my outlet for all the things steaming and simmering in me--I almost never post stuff like "Today I cleaned my house." For one thing, it would be a lie, and for another thing, it would be boring.  Most of what I post is what I'm passionate about. Ok, ALL of what I post is what I'm passionate about.  Why would I post about stuff  like, let's say, golf? But with all that steaming and simmering, a few burns are just par for the course, meh.

Earlier this year, I had a couple of people defriend me, basically because of my extremely vocal support for Obama's healthcare plan. That incident sort of made decide to just give up.  Not give up writing.  Nope. Not give up speaking. Nope. I mean give up trying to not offend people. Yeah, it's one thing to be purposefully obnoxious--that's not right and that's not me (some of you are doubtful, I know). But it's another thing to quote an article which claims that, for example, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that Obama's plan would eventually reduce the deficit. Sure we can disagree about the numbers. But if you are offended by the very fact that I could possibly post articles which support something you oppose, well, I have no words for you. 

Basically, I grew up a fundamentalist.  The folks I grew up around were wonderfully loving but a little short on acceptance and tolerance. (Yes, the dreaded T-word!).  Sometimes I feel like I would have to cease to exist before I would be able to avoid offending some of them--bless their hearts. They are offended if I drink alcohol (which I do), offended if I listen to non-Christian music (which I do), offended if I lean Democratic (yup, I do), offended if I use bad words (you know I do), offended if I don't regularly and loud proclaim just how much I love the word of God and how grieved I am by the world and how much I am wishing for the Lords return etc.

So it's over, folks. I'm out of the closet now and I'm bringing my cobwebs and dust bunnies with me. As a man I knew once advised, I'm going to let my Yes be Yes and my No be No. Anything beyond that is from the evil one.


  1. FABULOUS. You are a true inspiration, Hannah! Please rant more.

  2. Good post , Hannah. While I regularly disagree with most of the articles you post (I do read them), I completely agree with your stance on trying not to offend. It happens and always will. People are entitled to their points of view regardless of what they are. Very well worded!

  3. Thanks you guys! I'm not sure how to emphasize it, but I really am okay with people disagreeing me. I've probably managed to disagree with myself on almost every major or minor issue in the past few years. So, I'll really cool with whatever you have to say and I want to hear it.

    I'm a big softie--really, I am a total push over. I can't even watch the major networks because I get too emotional when I see a sad story. I'm totally a big old grizzly bear. So if you've got something to say, say it and I'll be weeping! I'll probably cry for 30 minutes before I express how terribly wrong and misguiding you are :-)

    Then I'll cry another 30 minutes. I'm such a softie it's not even funny. I cry every time I watch "Cars" :-) I can't watch "Dumbo" because I feel so sorry for the poor little guy. (No joke!)

  4. Hannah, I so enjoy the evolving of your mind (oh no, there's that E word). Maybe it's more a revolving of the mind. Anyway, Facebook would not be worth opening, if not for the wide array of opinions and ideas being posted by people who are passionate about whatever, be it their political views, religious beliefs, raising families or posting photos. The only ones that really annoy me are the short, obscure half sentences that could be interpreted any which way. I mean, what's the point of that? Except that in a way it's like a sign hanging upside down on the highway. Ya gotta read it, and it does have a tendency to stick in your mind for a moment... So keep sharing and offending, otherwise I would have a very limited idea of your (and all my FB nieces and nephews) personalities and life experiences. I must say, however, I was a little offended at your demand that all responses to your blog use I didn't. :-)

  5. Holy shit what a great read!

    I hope I did not just offend someone with my foul language.

    You are a natural writer!

  6. Yes, people will be offended no matter what. Several months ago someone caught me reading a book about health and became extremely offended. She told me that you can't have God and nutrition.

    I agree that people need to be more open to other people having different opinions.

  7. Well said! I run anonymous because of my fear of offending, startling, disappointing. Your words are an inspiration.

  8. Great blog already Hannah! I find that you and I have some to many of the same feelings regarding the Bible and religion. I wish I could take this approach more with aggressive people.
    Michelle Oh

  9. I totally agree! Debate between people should be welcomed not shunned.

  10. Finally! I thought I was the only that felt this way. Apparently around here I am. Can't we just agree to disagree? I've lost so many friends over politics and religion these past two years; but, if that is the case, they weren't my friends to begin with.

  11. I'm late coming to the table but I agree with you! Well, I agree with your passion and your honesty - those things always come shining through. Hope you post often!


  12. Hi Hannah, I just stumbled across your blog.

    You hit the nail right on the head: People are just too thin-skinned these days. No matter what you say or do, somebody somewhere will be offended.

    There's not much one can do about it (without either kowtowing to them or confronting them and exacerbating the problem), so I just try (that's TRY) to adhere to the old 'live and let live' philosophy. Too bad more people don't do the same - I think we'd all be better off.