By Jack Wilkie
You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “snowflake” over the past year or two as it has come to be used as a derogatory nickname for what some call the “everybody gets a trophy” generation, where everybody was told how special and unique they are. And, of course, my fellow Millennials haven’t exactly helped our cause by inventing the concept of “safe spaces,” where they can go to get away from words and ideas they don’t like. Some university campus safe spaces even provide coloring books, play-dough, and puppies to calm those who have been triggered.
In the midst of all of this absurdity, though, what’s been lost is that people from all sides and of all ages have turned into snowflakes in need of safe spaces these days. Couples have literally cited the Trump election as a reason for divorce as they could not continue their marriages through the tension of supporting different candidates. Others have broken off communication with friends and family because of differences of opinion. Some people have pledged to boycott businesses that are anti-Trump, others have pledged to boycott businesses that are pro-Trump.
If you ask me, that sounds like a whole bunch of snowflakes needing a whole bunch of safe spaces to shelter themselves from people who don’t think like they do. Because of this, people are more divided now than most people can ever remember, and that’s not the way God wants us to live. And the election isn’t the only issue on which people segregate themselves from each other. Churches split, friendships end, and families live in tension all the time because they can’t put up with each other’s differences. We’ve lost the ability to look past differences and find common ground with our fellow man. Instead, we’d rather get offended at other people’s opinions and withdraw ourselves.
And why do we do this? Because we live in an age governed by one chief rule: the first person to get offended has the moral high ground. By becoming the offended we make the other person the offender, implying that they owe us an apology or they aren’t worth our time. Ultimately it comes from selfish pride. That pride is tearing our country apart at the seams and will divide any church in which is it present.
So what do we do about it?
- Love people more than you love your opinions. The problem with being a special snowflake who views everyone who disagrees with you as an enemy, one from which you must retreat into a “safe space,” is that it ends any chance of showing them love. I don’t remember Jesus ever acting that way. In fact, we’re supposed to have the same humble, people-prioritizing mind in ourselves that He had when He put us first and died for us (Philippians 2:3-8). We’re supposed to be willing to give up any of our preferences necessary – even when we’re right! – for the sake of our brethren (Romans 14). And, perhaps most importantly, we’re supposed to take the Gospel into all the world (Matthew 28:18-20), and that just can’t happen if we won’t talk to people who hold opposing views. Saying “I won’t be your friend,” or “I’m not talking to you” over an opinion is as un-Christlike as it gets.
- Take things as they were intended. Like a baseball player leaning in to get hit by a pitch and take their base, so many people today go around looking for ways to get offended and take some imaginary moral high ground. Just this week I’ve seen probably dozens of Facebook comments where someone scolded someone else for what they posted while completely missing the point and taking the original post totally out of context – all so the commenter could be offended and get to correct the person who made the post. Love people enough to take their words for what they said rather than turning them into an enemy and retreating to a safe space. As Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” And if you can’t take them for what they meant because you’re not sure…
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. A byproduct of the perpetually offended culture is the refusal to give the benefit of the doubt. I’m constantly having to clarify things to an infinitely basic level by qualifying articles and sermons with “I’m not saying x, and I don’t mean y,” because often someone will inevitably assign the worst possible meaning to what’s been said. I can guarantee that other writers and preachers deal with the same. It’s as if we’ve all been conditioned to stop using our brains and instead judge everything that’s put before us through the filter of a narrow box of phrases and buzzwords that belong to “our side” and “the other side” on various issues. If somebody says something that doesn’t immediately fit into the “our side” box, we have to question, challenge, and ultimately shun them. We are far too intelligent for this mindless practice of reducing people to soundbites for easy acceptance or rejection. Part of loving people is believing the best about them (1 Corinthians 13:7).
We serve a God who is love itself. The ugly, bitter division in the world today that is driving everyone to be offended about everything and segregate themselves into safe spaces is the antithesis of what God wants. As His people, it’s our duty to help bring about peace. Let’s show the world His light and show them a better way by not getting offended at the drop of a hat but rather reaching out and talking to people so we can start building bridges to common ground.