Recently an old acquaintance told me he had retired and was delighted to find that what he really enjoyed was having time to read—at any hour and for any length of time. I had to ask then what he was reading and he answered “Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen. I haven’t read the book yet, but the word, the idea of being “unoffendable” has bound itself to me. I’m so intrigued. What would it be like to be truly “unoffendable?” What if no political viewpoint or theological stance or lack of moral character or abuse of any sort left me unoffended? Or even not offended by getting cut off in traffic or waiting for someone who is chronically late or an unreturned phone call? I could get even more insignificant than that. I’ve begun to count the ways I can be offended!
But then, if I am not offended, what am I? Someone with no sense of social or personal responsibility?And if I am unoffendable, do I have any response to that which is truly offensive in the world? Do I become an island, safe and secure in my not being aroused by what I formerly deemed offensive?
I don’t know the author’s stance, but when I sense into being unoffendable, I can also see a certain surprising freedom in it. What if, say, a political belief diametrically opposed to mine, no longer caused the usual tension and tightness in my body or triggered my mind to explode with justification for my way of thinking?
It seems to me that if I wasn’t offended—and that offense usually due to some past life experience or beliefs taught to me—I would be free to be curious about 1) how that person came to that belief and 2) how I came to that belief.
Beyond these beliefs, which are all in the mind, I have a heart and soul. The other that offends me has a heart and soul. But these are all clouded by convictions and self-righteousness and certainty—defenses I have come to understand often come from some early experiences of hurt and fear and hate in one’s life.
. If I could come to such a place of being unoffendable, could I more easily touch the humanity of the other person, the real person, not the personality? It feels like then, my response would be in alignment with Divine Will and with my true will for a world that seeks the common good. Otherwise my offended position just adds to the offense, to the anger, to the violence I am offended by!
I recently listened to a song by Lucinda Williams entitled “Compassion”. The words go,
“Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it.
What seems conceit is always a sign, always a sign.
For those you encounter, have compassion,
even if they don’t want it and what seems bad manners,
is always a sign.
Always a sign of things of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen;
you do not know what wars that are going on,
down there where the spirit meets the bone,
where the spirit meets the bone.
For everyone you listen to have compassion, even if they don’t want it,
what seems cynicism is always sign, always a sign.
Down there where the spirit meets the bone.
She touches on what I have long known; we just don’t know each others’ stories, the really deep ones that shaped us in that deep dark place near the bone. It was part of the reason I started the Listening Post. I heard myself say back then, “If I just listen to the other person’s story all the way to the very end, I think I could love anyone.”
Where my spirit meets my bone, I want enough healing and awareness and love to move toward being “unoffendable” by the other. And yet that same intention to heal, to be aware and to love then free to turn to that which is in need in this world. I don’t know how to get there, but it starts with being aware of when I am offended. And then turning to it and seeing what “no ears have every heard or eyes have ever seen.” What’s been hidden even from myself?
(And I plan to actually read the book!)