19 July 2011

Offensive

I could list pages of statements that have offended me. But I'll spare us more of this exercise in uncharity, not least because what offended me was not actually any one statement. The true catalysts for my taking offense were my perception of the person who offered it, the inferences I made about her motive in speaking, the judgment I had made of her life and person, my reception of her words.

My being offended or not offended has everything to do with my relationship with the person speaking. Some of the most arguably offensive statements I've received are from a person at whom I cannot imagine being truly angry. To me, she can say no wrong, no matter how wrong are the things she says. I forgive her reflexively and painlessly, a favor she returns.

In conversation with the right person I have not only agreed with but proffered ridiculous theses, affirming the very ignorances, insensitivities, and idiocies I have scorned from the wrong people. I almost laughed out loud immediately after hearing my own voice tell someone dear to me that the care of a dog is in every way equivalent to the care of a child. Aside from the factual absurdity of this common assertion, which I have received many times with pure disgust, I HATE DOGS AND ALL WHO LOVE THEM. Except my friends with dogs. But I do hate your dogs.

So anyway, the lists of what to say and what not to say, even my own, are of limited usefulness. The true friend can say very little wrong. The acquaintance and stranger (which includes all imaginary internet people) risk a great deal in speaking. The ultimate determiner of offense is the hearer.

28 comments:

Melrose said...

risks a great deal in speaking indeed. Which brings me to a question I ask myself every time I post on my blog and have often wondered about and desired to ask you and other authors on this blog as well....why blog?

Untamed Shrew said...

This has been on my mind a lot lately. It never ceases to amaze me how I can say something in cyberspace that is oh-so controversial/offensive/judgmental, and someone else can say the EXACT same words, verbatim, and no one argues but defends the person, or at the very least her right to say it. I beg everyone on the interwebs to hear written words first with the voice of your best friend, and then apply that construction to the words of this stranger or acquaintance who is ruffling your feathers.

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person: having neither to weigh thoughts, nor measure words, but to pour them out just as they are—chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” —George Eliot

Rebekah said...

Melrose, I've had my "I'm quitting blogging" post drafted and ready to post for well over a year. But then what adult would talk to me on a normal day? :/ This also doesn't answer the equally pressing question, "Why read or leave comments at a blog you hate?"


>> hear written words first with the voice of your best friend,

Shrew, I don't think this favor toward a stranger who takes the liberty of commenting on a personal life of which they have no meaningful knowledge is a realistic expectation.

Untamed Shrew said...

Well, when you put it that way. . . . :o) I once made an "I HATE DOGS" statement and someone took it very personally. Had her friend made the same statement, she would not have taken it personally. And this is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me.

Melrose said...

Rebekah, It's like admitting I pee my pants on a regular basis (which I don't, yet ;) because I am embarrassed to admit that is the same reason I started blogging and indeed have yet to post my "I'm finished" post as well. I became tired of chattering my thoughts on the vocation of home making to my husband despite his gracious attempts at always appearing interested.

Now how about this: regarding touchier topics, in particular those that are intertwined with theology, do you ever fear the issue of speaking on such matters to those readers such as men or Pastors that frequent this site especially if you were to make a mistake...do you ever worry about that harming your husband's reputation or worry about being a voice to a public realm? Sorry, I'm quite the rambler lately and can't quite seem to adequately start or finish a thought with proper sentence structure. But I worry sometimes that my voice will precede my husband's (esp since he prefers to remain stealth in internet land) and is this appropriate as a non-head-of-house? My husband worries sometimes when commenters get down right mean but he has always supported my blogging.

Oh, I like your question to commenters by the way. I wonder the same thing every time certain "mean" and particularly defensive types come along.

lisa said...

The thing is I can always count on myself to say something ridiculous and my best friends somehow can't help returning the favour and the whole thing seems incredibly enjoyable to me.

So enjoyable that it fills my heart with laughter.

I guess the thing is the friend who speaks Truth is invaluable - regardless of what else comes out of that same pie hole.

Thanks be to God for faithful and charitable friends.

"Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them." Sirach 5:14-16

U.S. - I love that Eliot quote. She knew what was up :) And the chaff often aflowith around here.

Cheryl said...

Yes. I have had this same thought a lot lately. What is even sadder than having a non-friend put the worst construction on your words is having a friend who used to put the best construction on them start putting the worst construction on them. Then you know that something has changed, and it's not the words but the relationship. :-(

Rebekah said...

Melrose, I don't consider blogs authoritative. I don't consider this or any blog a "ministry." It's something I do because I like it.

I sometimes run a post by my husband when my interests run in a theological direction, but in general, I don't think either of us worry about it much. We are both aware that I'm a friggin housewife and as such am hardly speaking ex cathedra, here or anywhere else.

Honestly, I have always been surprised that this solidly chick-interest blog draws dude visitors. I suspect they clear out when it gets too chicky in various regards.

Blogging is free, I can do it from home, and it allows me to talk with the small group of people who share my Sitz im Leben. Anyone who dislikes the existence of differing convictions within a particular confession is encouraged to spend her time with those who share her convictions.

Cheryl, all I've got is :(

Jane said...

I don't know, Rebekah. I don't get offended by much except for the occasional random attack on my congregation. And my friends wouldn't do that. :) I have noticed that some internet folks have the tendency to read sincere disagreement as offense. They are two different things. I can believe that someone is completely wrong about something that they express to me and not be the least offended by it. Of course, the fact that I dare to disagree may offend them. Then we're back to your theory. :)

Rebekah said...

Jane, I get what you're saying. My problem is that I tend to be flippant about disagreements wherein I'm not offended--which can be offensive to a person who IS offended by the disagreement. Alas, I'm a jerk. :P (I've also got my fightin' words, such as personal attacks on certain public persons--which of course the people making never consider personal attacks.)

The only problem with your church is that your pastor quit blogging. :D

Jane said...

Yes, that is a problem. :)
And if you're a jerk, I must be a jerk, too, because several times I've discovered that something I saw as just another passing, trivial internet exchange was viewed more seriously by someone else. Ugh.

Melrose said...

Rebekah, very well said and that is the very reason I felt ok about blogging. Then when some....higherish up Lutherans that work for Synod wandered onto a few posts and disagreed and were even offended I was quite...surprised? I'm just a housewife people trying to do my thing. I don't in any way claim any authority of any kind (except over the butt-wiping and cooking) and it's just nice to have someone to talk to along the way. sigh. You know so that this one sucking the life out of me doesn't COMPLETELY fry my brain...or what's left of it.

Heather Best said...

'...why blog?'
'I became tired of chattering my thoughts on the vocation of home making to my husband despite his gracious attempts at always appearing interested.'

Exactly! Plus I like to write and if I put it out their for the world to read, (as opposed to a journal) I'm going to try to write it better. I'll try to organize my thoughts more and then it won't be some cluttered up, rambling diary entry for my kids to find when I'm dead.

Just a thought on offenses that I happened to run across today and thought I'd share.

"If one offends me personally, then it does not matter. I am to let it go, and then even question why I am offended.

The Word killed me already some time ago. They offend a dead person, and a dead person is not offended. I do not want to resurrect the old man just for the purpose of being offended."

The person who reposted this did not give an author, so unless someone recognizes it, I'm gonna say it is annonymous.

Elaine said...

two G.K. Chesterton quotes seem apropos: "People generally quarrel because they cannot argue." This happens after they decide to be offended. The other quote: "With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand." Every one of us who read blogs like CSPP should probably keep this quote in mind! Keep on bloggin', Rebekah!

Cheryl said...

"Then when some....higherish up Lutherans that work for Synod wandered onto a few posts and disagreed and were even offended I was quite...surprised?"

Melrose, BTDT. Yes, it is surprising. And not fun.

Have also BTDT, as Jane has, as probably many of you have, with having your church or pastor (and for some of you that is your husband--double ouch!) criticized. It's kind of like when someone criticizes your kids. It's worse than when they are critical of you personally because all your protective instincts come out.

Jane has a great point about needing to separate disagreement from offense. They are not the same. But sometimes they do collide as our disagreements are not always expressed in the kindest and least offensive manner. And if we are honest with ourselves we have all at one time or another fallen short in expressing ourselves with absolute grace and precision. I know I have.

Elaine, I love those quotes. And I echo your call to Rebekah to keep blogging!

And Rebekah, you are one of the least jerky people I have ever "met." I really don't think you have an ounce of jerkiness in you. I have been reading this blog for years and I have never seen you handle anyone, even the true jerks, with anything less than the utmost care and respect. I have a hard time imagining you being flippant. Perhaps you have interpreted a disagreement differently, taking it less seriously than the other party, but I can't imagine you being flippant about someone else's feelings once you have realized them. You are a great model for all of us on how to express ourselves with care and how to react with grace when we are attacked. That is reason enough for you to stay in the fray (speaking in all selfishness, of course)!

Melrose said...

Cheryl, I like you :)

Cheryl said...

Aw, thanks, Melrose. I like you, too! :-)

Rebekah said...

Cheryl, trust me on this one. :P There, see? I just stuck my tongue out at you.

As for higher uppers, you girls worry way too much. I'm extremely confident that the vast majority of the self-appointed internet watchdogs and frowners upon free speech in Our Beloved Synod are way too high and mighty to read lowly housewife and homeschool blogs. Housewives, seriously? They exist? If they do it's because they're too dumb to be worth my awesome time.

Cheryl said...

"Cheryl, trust me on this one. :P There, see? I just stuck my tongue out at you."

Nice try, Rebekah. Not buyin' it. :P

"I'm extremely confident that the vast majority of the self-appointed internet watchdogs and frowners upon free speech in Our Beloved Synod are way too high and mighty to read lowly housewife and homeschool blogs."

So let me get this straight. I think what you are saying is that if someone DOES stoop to read my blog he has thereby shown that he is not that high on the totem pole since if he were he would surely be too busy and have much better things to do with his time than pick apart my little blog, no?

I like it. :-D

Katy said...

Like Pr. Messer, my all-time favorite blog posts come from here.

(Specifically, "What is it we think we're doing?" "She Does?" and "NFP: Why We Don't Bother." Guest posts count, right? Also, runner-up is Gauntlet's first comment after "She Does?")

Keep up the good work (of raising your families)--and keep blogging when you have time!

Rebekah said...

Cheryl, I'm not touching that; neither will I portray my demeanor emoticonically.

Katy, likewise!

Melrose said...

hahaha, I love how you can give comfort and yet humble us all in one swoop! lol, brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Don't pay any attention to the critics; don't even ignore them. --Sam Goldwyn (supposedly)

Anonymous said...

So, I know the whole dog thing was only a side-note on the main topic, however: one week ago, I and my unpaid free infant (um, or 21 month old) happened to be sharing a seat on an airplane. Said seat was next to lady with dog on her lap. I don't like dogs. To be honest, I don't always like kids, either, but I could have handled a flight with another child on the lap of the lady next to me. Even if the child screamed. However, I did not like that this dog sneezed on me, sniffed me, groomed her seat next to me (and proceeded to lick my son...), and woke up my napping child with its tail smacking into him. The kind stewardess reminded the lady several times, "You know, it's supposed to be in the bag under your feet, right?" And she'd kindly reply, "Yes, I know." And if all of this wasn't enough, oh, and did I mention the two hour delay and she hadn't planned what to do abotu the doggie's potty situation because of the delay???, the woman complained that she actually had to pay $100 for her dog, but he didn't even get a seat. My baby was free. How unfair. And from her perspective, the only difference between our "babies" was that I fed mine from my breast and she fed hers freeze dried chicken. So, there's my dog story.-- Marie MacPherson

Leah said...

I'm with you Rebekah. I am NOT a dog person... in any way, shape, form, or sympathy. Uh-uh, absolutely not, no way!

However, I love my friends and relatives who own dogs, despite this totally incomprehensible (to me) lapse of judgment of theirs in owning and loving their dogs.

Katy said...

I'm totally a dog person (who doesn't own a dog--hehe), but that lady next to Marie in the plane was CRAZY (and the stewardess wasn't doing her job). I thought all dogs went in baggage.

Gauntlets said...

I would like dogs a lot more if their owners didn't think of them as children. I get that dogs are a different kind of pet, emotionally sensitive and wired to be loyal and attuned to their owners. But it is precisely these qualities that make them nothing like children, or humans of any age.

Children are men, not pets. They win, even if they never wag their tails when I walk in the room.

Emily Klakulak said...

You know...

I ADORE dogs. It's the cat lovers who I do not get at all.

but anyways.. I actually wonder if more Lutherans tend to be cat people, because this is just something I have noticed since my conversion.