Saturday, November 10, 2012

When we take up the offense of others

Some of the most difficult situations I have to deal with as an organizational leader are those who call my office angry and unhappy and irrational over an issue that they have no first hand knowledge of. They have taken up someone else's issue and have gone on a crusade.

The reason these are such difficult situations is this. First, because they don't have first hand knowledge one cannot have a rational conversation about what really happened. All they know is what they "heard" happened and in the context of anger, hurt and raw emotions. Thus this is not a conversation about facts but perceived facts and emotional reactions. Conversations that cannot be focused around objective facts are usually conversations that cannot be resolved. 

Second, the conversations are crazy making because those who take up other's offences usually do not reveal that fact. It is clear from the conversation that there is an issue behind the issue (some one else's offence) but it is never stated so one has a hard time getting at it. If I sense there is an underlying issue I will often probe as to what it is and try to get to the heart of the matter. Dealing with side issues does not help one resolve the real - underlying issues. Unless that is put on the table there is no resolution.

Third, because these conversations are not about facts since first hand knowledge is no present, it ends up being about perceptions and anger. Perceptions of others are usually wrong and anger cannot be resolved without dealing with facts. And facts cannot be established without those with first hand knowledge present. 

Finally these are no win conversations because those who take up the offense of others have no way to move on because they cannot resolve "facts." So while the person whose offense they picked up moves on eventually those who picked up the offense did not and cannot.

When there is conflict, the goal must always be to achieve reconciliation. The goal is to come to understanding and achieve a level of peace. When I take up someone else's offence, however, I am doing just the opposite, enlarging the conflict rather than minimizing it: I cannot solve it for others; my own anger spills over to others; I have no objectivity in the situation and because it is not my issue, I cannot find resolution. It is a no win situation and does nothing to bring reconciliation or peace.

Picking up someone else's offense is foolish, bad EQ, unbliblical and causes relational havoc beyond what was necessary. It is one thing to seek to help resolve an issue in a healthy and productive manner. But once you take up another's offense there is no good way out.  


Livingstone said...

Well said… Thank you for sharing your insights on this topic as it is so easy to “Take up another’s offense” and it always causes trouble. As you pointed out it usually comes out of ones own anger or frustration on an issue or a particular person. What good does this do..? None! It merely adds to the fire of strife or an event instead of staying impartial and perusing peace! "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called sons of GOD.” The Messiah. This is a great piece and most helpful.

Lynn Annis said...

You are wrong. It is not unbiblical to take up the offense of another, especially those who have no voice or have been ignored, bullied and/or shamed into keeping silent about the injustice done to them. I think especially of the unborn, the Jews in Nazi Germany, persecuted believers around the world, those who are bullied by the world or by church leaders. Too many church leaders have set themselves up as the authorities who must be obeyed and any one who speaks up is condemned as unsubmissive, insubordinant and sinful. Thus silencing dissension. I think this idea of not taking up the offense of another has been taught by certain church leaders in order to bully people into submission and silence about wrongdoing.

In our house church we are talking about God's justice and how to "do justly", as in Micah 6:8. I was looking up the scriptural basis for not taking up the offense of another. There is none. In my searching, I accidentally came across this blog, and I felt I had to say something.

I did like what I read in another post by Sovereign Grace Ministries from 2009; the question being "is it sinful to take up the offense of another?" It follows:
--I’d never feel bold enough to say that I can be anyone’s advocate, but I do believe that those who have been mistreated in church situations can very often find themselves in a place where they are unable to do anything about what they’ve experienced. Often, they are so entrenched in the thinking that church leadership has promoted that they have lost the ability to recognize an offense for what it is – behavior that is totally inappropriate from a church leader – and instead feel a sense of condemnation because they aren’t “spiritually mature” enough to “just move on.” Years and years of incorrectly expanded teachings on gossip, too, will leave someone feeling paranoid about the potential for sin in merely putting into words what they observed and experienced. Also, if you’ve been taught that you must submit to your authorities no matter what, you will never be able to step outside an unjust church discipline experience to see it for what it was – you will continue to believe, even if your senses are telling you otherwise, that the sinful party is still YOU.--

James Huey said...

“Interfering in someone else’s argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭26:17‬

Shopgirl said...

Taking up an offense is not the same as defending the defenseless. When someone is offended or arguing with another and you get involved not knowing both sides, that is what taking up someone's offense means. Kind of being a busy body. It ALWAYs ends badly.