Open & Honest Dialogue

by The Beardly Writer


I want this. I want it badly. And it makes me sad that it will never happen. Not about race. Not about religion. Not about sexual orientation, abortion, politics, terrorism, capital punishment, or any other controversial or even quasi-controversial topic. It will never happen. And that’s terrible.

It won’t happen because people. We are our own worst enemy. We are walking, skipping, jumping, swimming, jazzerblading, and in all other ways contradictions.  Our strengths are our weaknesses. What makes us stronger does in fact kill us. The passion that moves people to take to the streets in protest is the same passion that deafens their ears to the opposition. We shout our opinions from our soapboxes and keyboard mountaintops because it’s our constitutional right to free speech but no one has the time or patience to shut up and listen for a minute. We are all too eager to be offended.

I have an opinion on offense (it’s my ‘Murican right). I’m not alone in this opinion, either. At least one other guy I know agrees with me. So, you know. I’m not a lone nut or anything. Ready? Here it is.

Offense is a choice.

You can’t choose to offend someone. But you can choose to be offended.

I made the choice several years ago to not be offended. You can’t offend me. You can say whatever you want. Make fun of my religion, my politics, my beard. Be as vile and repulsive as you want. I’m not offended. If I allow anything you do or say to offend me, that means you have power over me. I don’t give you the right to offend me. If I take offense, I’m choosing to put more value in what you say or do than I put into myself. I know who I am. I know my faults, my strengths. You can’t offend me because your opinion doesn’t influence what I know to be true. That isn’t to say I’m not open to learning or to adjusting what I know. In fact, offense prevents education. Offense immediately builds a wall around the offendee, preventing any further constructive exchange. That’s why we’ll never see true open and honest dialogue.

How would the world be different if we were less interested in making sure people heard our opinions than in hearing others? What if representatives from two opposing sides of a controversy could sit in a room and discuss what’s on their hearts and minds without fear of offending each other?

What if Police Officers sat down with the Black community in Ferguson and neither side had to worry about offending the other? I am in no way saying that what happened in their town, and across the country, isn’t a terrible tragedy. But for healing and progress to begin, strong people who choose to not be offended are needed. Open and honest dialogue is impossible without them.

What if pastors sat down with LGBT community members and both discussed their fears, worries, experiences, hopes, values, prayers, and dreams without fear of condemnation or offense? How many burned bridges could be rebuilt? How many wounds healed?

What if mothers against abortion could sit down with mothers who felt they had no option but abortion, and share their their hearts without fear of backlash or judgment?

I’m not saying this is a magical salve that will heal the world overnight. I’m saying that brave people need to stand up and boldly choose to not be offended. It’s a simple, one-time choice. Know who you are. Be secure in who you are. And let no man have sway over you. Choose to ignore offense and keep the walls of ignorance and separation from growing. Not just because I want open and honest dialogue. I do. But the world needs it.

The world needs it. But do I think it likely? Will I see this in my lifetime? I wish I were an optimist because I really want to say yes. But no, I don’t think so. I love being proven wrong, though.

Please, brave people, prove me wrong.