Recently, a good friend of mine challenged me to make a comprehensive bucket list, a tally of all of those things I want to do before I “kick the bucket.” In some ways, it seemed kind of morbid, but then again if we don’t document our desires, we probably won’t remember and ultimately won’t get it done.
Over the past weeks (and months), I have slowly compiled places I would like to visit, crazy activities I would like to attempt and things I would like to accomplish before I leave this earth. I don’t want to be a person of regret in my later days, so this has been a good exercise of writing down those things to remember.
The other day, I was listening to a radio show and the disc jockey asked her celebrity guest, “What is on your bucket list?” I was immediately drawn to the question in hopes of sparking new interests and activities to add to my ongoing list. His answer has stayed with me ever since.
“The one item on my bucket list for the rest of my life is to not be offended.”
At first I thought to myself, that’s not a bucket list item! What kind of thing is that?! That’s not a cool place to visit, some death-defying act to survive or somebody exciting to meet. That can’t be on the list! (As if I was the bucket list police)
The guest went on to explain how he used to feel offended when he didn’t receive an accolade he thought he deserved, feel offended when someone didn’t approve of something he did, feel offended when a person disagreed with a decision he had made or feel offended when someone had a differing opinion.
What’s wrong with that? Those are “offend-able” offenses!
I just sat there in my car for a while trying to absorb this epiphany I was just bestowed. All of a sudden, my list of wanting to travel back to Europe and New Zealand, to compete in running and paddling events and “relational stuff” seemed somewhat self-serving and trivial.
Not be offended?
Foolish people are easily upset. But wise people pay no attention to hurtful words (Proverbs 12:16).
I started wondering and noticing how much time, energy and productivity we lose as a result of taking offense to things. I have compiled an assessment for you to evaluate yourself.
You may have taken offense if:
- You have been tailgated and you purposely slowed down to aggravate the driver behind you even more.
- You were passed up on a raise or someone got credit for something you had a big part of and you told everyone who would give you the time of day, even those you didn’t know.
- You have a strained relationship with a friend or relative for something you don’t even remember (and obviously isn’t significant anymore), but you still hold onto it.
- You recount a prior conversation and plan “what to say” if they repeat what was said to you the first time.
“Not being offended” (on your part) doesn’t make the other person right, or condone what was said or done, it just releases you from the burden it places on you to retaliate, slander back or carry a grudge.
There are so many offense-able occurrences these days because we put ourselves out there by posting, re-posting, tweeting, re-tweeting, discussing, and opinionating on many things we probably shouldn’t. Some see it as their civic duty to record what others do and post it for the world to see even though they aren’t a part of the situation, not privy to the circumstances, not directly affected, and lack the maturity of discernment.
Whether it's sports, news, politics or even reality shows, it seems like someone always says something they later have to rescind or apologize for because someone somewhere took it as “offensive.”
Recently, I have made a choice to stop (or at least reduce the amount of time I waste) watching “talking heads” on television, reading posts on the internet and trying to give my unsolicited opinion. Almost everything can be construed as offensive and I don’t need to be a part of it.
Being an avid sports fan, I find it amusing how seriously and passionately people react to others who disagree about supporting a group of people they don’t know, representing a city where they have never visited, playing a game where the results have no personal ramifications to them.
Each year we sadly hear of confrontations between fans, even to the point of death, because of their preference. How ridiculous is that we get offended because someone chooses to like a team (which Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once referred to as a “jersey” since the players change so often) we don’t?!
I choose not to be offended by someone who paints their face and wears a Styrofoam cheese wedge on their head. I choose not to be offended by those who don’t agree with my opinion. I choose not to be offended when I don’t receive an accolade I believe I am deserving of.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
How about we also try to not to offend?
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24).
I understand we don’t have any control over how the recipient (or passerby) of our words or actions respond to what we say or do, but we can all be more careful to be interpreted properly. What may be said flippantly in jest or in private could haunt or stymie someone for years to come (I know some which have).
A brother offended is harder to be won back than a strong city (Proverbs 18:19).
I have been so awakened recently to the limited amount of time we have on this earth and to waste even a minute of it on meaningless arguments, hearsay, misinterpretation or superfluous chatter seems absurd.
Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness (1 Timothy 4:7).
Whatever you have compiled on your bucket list thus far, add “not to be offended” to the top of it. It may just change you, your relationships and the world around you.
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on facebook and twitter.
Publication date: February 20, 2014