By Tina Plett
In Canada, it’s okay to be offended. It might even be a prerequisite to being Canadian, I’m not sure. It does seem that walking around feeling offended about all things great and small seems to be a popular activity.
We ban sports team logos because they are “racially insensitive” and demand funding be cut from sports teams to force submission to such opinions. Forced submission is the same as agreement, right?
We take away Halloween costumes in school because they’re too scary or embody a racial stereotype or reduce Anne Frank to a mere costume.
Even real estate ads can be highly offensive here in Canada.
Every December I place the same holiday greeting in the local real estate publication. I’m about to describe what it says, so fair warning, this is about to get really offensive. The greeting says Jesus’ name four different times and declares Christ as the reason, not just of the Christmas season, but the reason for my faith and for all that exists. I believe Jesus, and He is the core, driving reason and motivation for every value and moral and decision I make. Love. Peace. Grace. Forgiveness. Eternity. These are at my core because of Jesus.
Sorry if that offends you.
Anyway, after placing the ad, I got a phone call. An angry one.
Someone had been deeply and personally offended that I would declare such things aloud and muddy up a business publication with such nonsense as Jesus’ name. They said something like, “I’m offended by your ad! Keep your religion in church, this isn’t the place for that.” Then they added a promise. “And I will NEVER buy a house from you because of your ad. Just wanted you to know that.”
If the phone message this woman left didn’t offend you, I’m glad.
But this part might. When I heard the message, I kind of laughed to myself. Did this stranger really, honestly think I would change my whole business because of her opinion? That I would tremble in fear and never place my usual holiday greeting because it hurt their feelings somehow? Or perhaps she thought her threat would cause me to cower beneath the table, questioning whether or not faith and work really do go together.
Kind of presumptuous of her, isn’t it?
I mean, if someone has a problem with something I’m saying or doing, I’ll absolutely consider it. I do care about how my actions and inactions affect others. But I’m not going to hop around like my feet are on fire just because someone has a loud or abrasive opinion of me and isn’t afraid to tell me about it. If I change my direction every time someone tells me I should, if I’m moved by every wind that blows, then who the heck am I?
But here’s the thing, and the whole reason I’m talking about this at all.
Opinions don’t define you. (Or at least they shouldn’t.)
Opinions are just that. Opinions. Everyone’s got one, at no time do they all agree, and every opinion is subject to change. Take them with a big grain of salt. I mean, that same day, someone else called with an opinion about that same holiday greeting. You know what they said? “Tina, this is amazing! I love this ad! It made my day!” She went on to tell me how she’d cut it out and kept it. That’s how much it had meant to her.
So, who was right? Whose opinion should I choose as truth?
The reality is, despite the highly offended nature of our culture and every single person around us, who we are is not found in people’s opinions. (And if it is, we’re in a big, deep identity crisis.)
All this to say, know yourself. Know what you stand for, what you believe and why.
Then do the work of sorting through how that fits together with your work.
For me, faith is a core part of who I am. Really, what we believe is at the core of each of us and drives all of our actions whether we’re aware of it or not. Everyone has a worldview.
With a fresh new slate of a year starting, it’s a perfect time to reflect on who you really are, outside of cultural pressures or public opinion. I invite you to explore your own personal foundation. I hope, as you do, you find the foundation is the bedrock of truth, from which true hope, love and peace spring forth.
May Jesus bless you richly with wisdom, peace and the strength that comes from knowing you are His.
That’s right, I said Jesus.