On Learning To Love Offensively (For Those Weary From The Fight)

Person in field

This is getting simpler.

I’ve recently found a clearing of sorts; a place where my mind and my spirit are finding peace and rest no matter how loud and ugly things get—though it wasn’t always this way.

For a long time I let the angry, mean-spirited, violent noise get the best of me. That happens to so many good people out here trying to change things, trying to care about stuff that matters, trying to help build the world they wish to see.

Spend enough time in the thick of the fight and you become conditioned to it, poisoned by its cynicism and contempt, hardened by its continual cruelty. Face the world in a battle posture long enough and you lose the ability to live any other way.

Too many people can only function if they have a villain to war with, a cause to rail against, an evil to condemn.

I’m conscientiously objecting to that fruitless war these days. I am trying to find a better way to fight.

More and more, I am letting what and who I care deeply about drive and move and fuel me. It allows me simplicity and clarity:

I abhor racism and bigotry, so I strive to see and treat all people equally and individually. 
I detest homophobia and transphobia, so I care for and support my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and their families.
I believe all people have the same inherent value, so I push back when that value is disregarded or disputed.
I believe no religious tradition has the market cornered and beauty and truth, so I advocate for all faith perspective, not simply my own.

I believe fully in gender equality, so I do my best to advocate it.
I find poverty detestable, so I look for ways to contribute to eliminating it.
I can’t stomach hatred in the name of Jesus, so as a Christian I try daily to reflect Christ’s love as well as I can as often as I can.

In short—I am learning to live and love offensively.

I no longer allow myself to be burdened with those who see me as an enemy. Their perceptions are formed from a distance anyway, and so I simply refuse to be defined by them. The more you know who you are, the less threatened you are when someone attacks you and the less interested you are in attacking back.

I am not very concerned with convincing others to agree with me either. I simply speak my heart clearly and continually and unwaveringly, trusting that those whose hearts echo mine will come alongside me while those who disagree will still be forced to hear me.

I spend less and less time these days being baited into verbal public battles, as those rarely do anything for the dignity of either side. I do not feed those who thrive on confrontation, as it takes my time and energy from those who need me; those who are so often forgotten, ignored, or drowned out by the din of social media shouting matches and endless culture wars.

More and more, I simply live to be the antidote to the things I find hurtful or damaging in the world, rather than arguing with those I believe are being hurtful or damaging. There are certainly times to identify dangers and to call out injustice, but those pale in comparison to the countless moments that simply require personal goodness.

Friends, there will always be those whose medium is vitriol, whose currency is condemnation, whose agenda is provocation, but resist responding in kind because that only conforms you to their image.

If you claim Christ, until you have a Christianity without venom you don’t have one that resembles Jesus quite yet. As a person of faith, this is the only kind of religion I am interested in.

Maybe you are like me. Maybe you’re bloodied and weary of the fight, but finding your second wind and discovering a better path, one less mired in sarcasm and less toxic to touch. 

Maybe you’re intentionally walking away from the war trenches, so that you can move toward the hurting, the unloved, the waiting—and respond.

If so, welcome.

This is the beginning of a holy movement in the world.

This is the stuff real revolutions are made of. 

May you fight well.

May you learn to love offensively.

 

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94 thoughts on “On Learning To Love Offensively (For Those Weary From The Fight)

  1. I love this! Thank you for speaking truth, for pointing us back to Jesus, for loving and trusting and not having to have all the answers. You put into words so much of what I feel. But more than anything your words validate my doubts and questions and give me a safe place to be okay with all of that. You have a gift, and a calling and I’m one of those who walks with you remembering and reminding that all else will pass away, but Love Never Fails.

  2. “The more you know who you are, the less threatened you are when someone attacks you and the less interested you are in attacking back.”

    Yup, that about sums it up.

  3. (Not sure if I put this comment here b4, so please forgive if it’s a duplication.) Just wanted to say that when I see the title, for a moment my 1st reaction is to feel this: ‘who wants to be offensive in loving people?’ & ‘what’s so offensive about loving people?’ (Chuckles!) Just thought I’d suggest the use of the term ‘proactively.’ If not, as my mom would say, ‘just know what I mean when I say it.’ 🙂

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  5. I’m there with you, John. Here is a related Brene Brown quote that makes me giggle. In fact, I’ve made the picture of it my computer background to make me laugh more! “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.” Actually, I’m learning to try and extend to them what I expect of them, “generous spaciousness,” what Wendy Vanderwahl Gritter’s book (same title) is all about. I highly recommend her book!

  6. John, this spoke to my soul. As a life long social activist I often released my outrage on those who were causing others to hurt. More recently I have felt not only that there had to be a better way, but also that our society has become so accustomed to venting their anger and cynicism on each other that it only hurts, but doesn’t change anything. It seems that anger expressed just births more anger. Righteous anger even gets lost in the cacophony.
    So I made the same decision that you have made, and while I am very much at peace with it, some folks seem to feel that I have taken the coward’s way out, or that I have become the academic equivalent of a Stepford Wife.

    Since it has not been long that I have been practicing the new mode, I have not developed the conversation about it. Learning to do it has required all my energy, and I can tell you it has required a lot of strength. From my point of view there is nothing cowardly about the process!

    Now I have your eloquent, rational but deeply spiritual guidelines to work with,
    exactly when I most needed them.

    Thank you again. I definitely note the image of Christ in you.

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