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10 Nov '12

When we take up the offense of others

Posted by T.J. Addington in emotional intelligence (EQ), forgiveness
Some of the most difficult situations I have to deal with as an organizational leader are those who call my office angry and unhappy and irrational over an issue that they have no first hand knowledge of. They have taken up someone else's issue and have gone on a crusade.

The reason these are such difficult situations is this. First, because they don't have first hand knowledge one cannot have a rational conversation about what really happened. All they know is what they "heard" happened and in the context of anger, hurt and raw emotions. Thus this is not a conversation about facts but perceived facts and emotional reactions. Conversations that cannot be focused around objective facts are usually conversations that cannot be resolved. 

Second, the conversations are crazy making because those who take up other's offences usually do not reveal that fact. It is clear from the conversation that there is an issue behind the issue (some one else's offence) but it is never stated so one has a hard time getting at it. If I sense there is an underlying issue I will often probe as to what it is and try to get to the heart of the matter. Dealing with side issues does not help one resolve the real - underlying issues. Unless that is put on the table there is no resolution.

Third, because these conversations are not about facts since first hand knowledge is no present, it ends up being about perceptions and anger. Perceptions of others are usually wrong and anger cannot be resolved without dealing with facts. And facts cannot be established without those with first hand knowledge present. 

Finally these are no win conversations because those who take up the offense of others have no way to move on because they cannot resolve "facts." So while the person whose offense they picked up moves on eventually those who picked up the offense did not and cannot.

When there is conflict, the goal must always be to achieve reconciliation. The goal is to come to understanding and achieve a level of peace. When I take up someone else's offence, however, I am doing just the opposite, enlarging the conflict rather than minimizing it: I cannot solve it for others; my own anger spills over to others; I have no objectivity in the situation and because it is not my issue, I cannot find resolution. It is a no win situation and does nothing to bring reconciliation or peace.

Picking up someone else's offense is foolish, bad EQ, unbliblical and causes relational havoc beyond what was necessary. It is one thing to seek to help resolve an issue in a healthy and productive manner. But once you take up another's offense there is no good way out.