On Taking Offense and Giving Forgiveness

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In contending with the difficult proposition of forgiveness of both oneself and others, it is important to consider the lens through which the issue is examined. If we afford ourselves the understanding that our identity is entirely built on what we traditionally call emotion which might be more accurately termed “a vast collection of behavioral triggers”, we can have a different perspective on both offense and forgiveness. We can also use the typical cultural lens that people think, and those thoughts are the basis for what they choose to do or not do and if they choose an offensive behavior then they are deserving of some retributive form of punishment because of what they chose. This second lens has a faulty premise and therefore produces a false image.

Words themselves are part of the much larger collection of behavioral triggers that make up our total identity. Our particular brand of verbal triggers we call vernacular can form lenses if they are appropriately tuned to focus on specific things, but that lens is by no means guaranteed to be geared to focus on those things which support our fully nourished state, nor is it guaranteed to be an accurate depiction of anything. In fact that verbal collection of triggers can conjure up false images that appear quite real to the sightseer. What triggers offensive behavior in our mind or what makes anyone tick at all including ourselves should be seriously questioned if clarity accuracy and credibility are recognized as values that lend us good vision by which to navigate.

Our verbal reasoning capacities are often a mere sideshow we use to further express the deep emotive affective behavioral language that we are actually composed of most of which has never seen the verbal light of day. If we were exposed to a developmental environment that was inclined toward betrayal and cruelty, this is what we will either express or be attracted to as on our social landscape. In this case we are behaving, but also wounded from our capacity to realize our potential because as social creatures our fullest state of nourishment depends on a community of mutually nourishing relational elements. From this perspective we are wounded and broken, not offensive at all. Our dependence on a community of mutually nourishing relationships to realize our full potential is written into our biology, but we can catch some pathological values in that native biological web based on environmental conditions that can trigger us to behave in ways that frustrate our participation in that environment that cultivates our optimal state of being. Maladaptive behaviors also can infect others with the transmission vector of offense. In other words, taking offense perpetuates the social wound.

We come equipped with a vast array of behavioral linguistics and we learn some more acutely local ones within the span of our brief time of heightened awareness before we are reabsorbed into the larger body of life. Many people do not live as if they are aware that much of what they feel and do was installed in them by their environmental circumstances and not chosen by them. As a consequence, they never develop the capacity for choice and cannot cultivate their life in any intentional direction. Ignorance in terms of a lack of self-examination is the same as sleeping on the currents of culture all the way to the grave.

Sometimes people who “offend” are simply not equipped to cultivate a nourishing relational environment due to the local or deeply historical behavioral echoes in their particular brand of biological stew. Sometimes people who are offended when behaviors do not need to be interpreted through that lens because they are neutral in terms of real effect and abrasive only by virtue of that individuals social rules which are also riding on their own wave of triggers. Real offense it could be argued is warranted when someone causes real harm. But as for forgiveness, before we even ask that question an even deeper one begs to be addressed: Given the fact that we are barely self-aware, are we qualified to condemn anyone for expressing triggers that were installed largely by a conspiracy of events outside that person’s control? Do we really think we should conjure up a crime and punishment lens for the effects of what are essentially wounds and starvation? Wouldn’t it be better to focus our energy on what is needed for healing and nourishment in our common community of life rather than expend energy in the mud of offense?

Dealing with the pragmatic necessities of staying out of harm’s way is one thing, feeling the authority to take offense which cooks us in bio poisons that do more to perpetuate the wounds than to heal them is yet another non nourishing pathology. In that case, taking offense is like the pot calling the kettle black and forgiveness is at best an antidote to our own poison pill of offense.

One response to “On Taking Offense and Giving Forgiveness

  1. There’s always more than one person taking part in this most unpleasant play we find ourselves in called life. The heart left broken, shattered beyond recognition, and the one who’s heart was broken before, during and after. It always takes two in this merrygoround game of cat and mouse; where neither have more fun than the other. Its with an abstract view, I lack the ability to see more than just me. Whether feeling too small on the inside or looking too small on the outside, my heart is gripped like a vice, not allowing me to not allow you, any longer to do what you do.
    The resounding beat of drums from deep within my chest, finally calms down and I have a chance to rest. By grace I find, I’m still alive to check out the scars left behind. Noticing its the one’s I can’t see that will get the best of me, is when I know I have to decide what do to help you, help you.
    An answer awaits me, in me. Not necessarily easy to do, but whatever I do I must do… with love.

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