I’ve noticed a trend over the past year or so that has gained momentum and doesn’t appear to be slowing. A slew of articles and blog posts have been written with titles that start something like, “Ten Things to Never Say to…” or “Four Questions ______ are Sick of Hearing”.
The blogger in me understands why so many people are writing them; they are wildly popular and fantastic traffic-drivers. In fact, I even wrote one for Scary Mommy last year (Hello Kettle, call me Pot).
The regular woman in me, however, has begun to cringe every time I see another one pop up. It appears our culture is sliding down a steep, icy hill of over-sensitivity.
Everything has become a reason to be offended these days and boy, are we easily offended!
You saw me with my three kids in the grocery store and had the audacity to say I have my hands full? I’m offended.
You’re wondering if we want more kids? How dare you ask such a personal question?
You want to know what I do as a stay-at-home mom? Oooh, you’re asking for it now!
Don’t even try to offer an opinion that differs from mine. Respectful, thoughtful discourse, along with the realization that we can still be friends even if we don’t agree, seems to be a thing of the past. Instead, anyone who dares to share an opinion that doesn’t match that of the listener is quick to be attacked. Apparently the cure for being offended is to offend, as quickly and harshly as possible.
Look, I know that some people purposely stir the pot. Sometimes people say offensive things and they do it with malicious intent. I’m not saying we should let jerks get away with being jerks.
But there’s something else I want to focus on here; something I find a bit alarming.
Since the majority of us try to be decent human beings, we have a desire to be unoffensive, but my greatest fear is that in our striving to be unoffensive in our words, we will choose silence instead.
If we follow all of the advice in those “Never Say These Things” posts, soon we won’t be allowed to say anything at all.
When faced with whether to ask a friend a question that might unintentionally hurt her or back off and mind our own business, we will choose silence. And in so doing, we will choose distance over relationship.
When we run into that overwhelmed mom at the grocery store to whom we can offer a word of encouragement or avert our eyes and walk away, we will choose silence. And in so doing, we will choose separation over connection.
Silence is easy. Words are difficult.
But when faced with a choice between the two, I want to choose the difficult path. I may not do it perfectly, but I hope the person I face will extend enough grace to understand that my intentions are good, even when my words are imperfect.
And when faced with someone else who has chosen the difficult path, I will try my hardest to stop taking everything so personally. I will do my best to understand that she might be a bit unsure of herself, but has still chosen words over silence. I will realize that the person speaking isn’t trying to injure me with her words, but is simply trying to connect.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that the least bit offensive. In fact, in today’s world, it’s actually quite brave.