Go ahead, offend someone.

by Heather on November 19, 2012

The other day, I read a blog post from someone I really respect about how disappointed she was about particular blogging practices.

I had a mixed reaction to her post. On one hand, I understood her reasoning.

And on the other hand, I had just been considering doing some of what disappointed her.

My heart sank.

And then, a thought occurred to me: if I decided to go ahead in the direction she critiqued, I might not gain her as a reader. I might offend my readers that share her opinion. She might not respect me.

“257/365″ by Dave via Flickr using a Creative Commons license

And that wouldn’t be the end of the world.

 

Here’s another much more offensive post I read this week (not offensive to me, mind you–just a firecracker of current issues). When she penned it, Heather must have thought about the readers she might lose, the friends she might offend.

But on the other hand, taking a stand, being honest and open to criticism? That’s called being a writer.

I admire Heather for speaking up, being candid, for being loving in that candor. I am inspired: what are the issues where I am called to stand up and be clear about what God puts on my heart?

 

Thinking about this potential for offense, how much it scares me, how much I shy away from it normally, I realize: most of my major writing milestones have come right after I’ve offended or been achingly candid with people I love.

Not an offense like an off-color joke. It’s more like when I grow out of being the person they were used to, and the growing pains make the relationship ache. Every so often, I  take a break from pleasing people because I can’t do it any more. I become more honest, and stop  worrying about what those around me will think.

And funnily enough, almost every time I let honesty break through the surface of my domesticated self, I start writing like mad. There is an explosion. Because if we can’t be ourselves with the people we love, if we can’t risk rejection with them, we have no chance with the blank page, blank canvas, the business plan or the new ministry.

Risking offense makes good art and good work possible.

So I’m asking you: Who are you afraid of offending? What message are you afraid of offending with? Maybe that’s the very message we’re to speak, the very person that you and I are supposed to bowl over with our candor. We are meant to speak. We are meant to have a voice. Even if it disappoints someone.

So, today: Offend someone with love. Offend gracefully. And with all the brilliant honesty of the stars.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Allman November 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

Heather,

I think most of the time we should not set out to offend someone. I do think we should be honest and speak what we believe. We do not control consequences; we control ourselves. Too many people choose to be offended. I also do not think we should hide behind “it is the truth so it is ok to shout it from the mountain tops”. We may be privy to truth that is best left unsaid. If what we say or write does not build others up(sometimes breaking them down to build them up) then we should not be doing that.

I do not think you should decide what you should write based on what you think the consequences might be(offending or not) but decide based on is it something that needs to be said. Is it something that people need to think about and consider. Will your comments spur people to think and take action?

By the way Heather and Vikki’s letters were great; especially when Heather said “I sit in the quiet with my God and I don’t concern myself with right and wrong in others, only in me, to be sure that I’m loving as radically as He does.”

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Heather November 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Mark, such true words. I was a little afraid the post would be misconstrued–we should generally avoid offense. But what you say is so true: “I do not think you should decide what you should write based on what you think the consequences might be(offending or not) but decide based on is it something that needs to be said.” Too often, I just avoid subjects even if they have the merest hint of controversy. I want to walk in fear in trembling to avoid hurting others unnecessarily–but not keep my mouth closed when it’s time to stand up and be counted. Thanks for your thoughtfulness!

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Heather November 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Oh wow, Heather, this is such a lovely and TRUE post. Thank you so much for including me in it. A couple of my recent posts were the scariest I’ve ever shared. I’m a recovering people-pleaser as well, and I had to keep pushing through to just let go and be ME. It is so freeing and terrifying, but I guess the best things come from pushing past fear.

Thank you again.

Heather

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Heather November 19, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Oh, Heather, I’m honored that you responded here. Thank you.
What I most loved about your post is how you invited people to engage on the issue in love. You didn’t write people off, even as you were frustrated. I so desire to see the dialogue about homosexuality and the church to create that kind of openness and acceptance.
Let’s spur each other on to speak the truth in love!

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