I know many people whose life experience has been seriously impacted by offences. When something offends us it causes a ‘shut down’ inside us.
In my lessons on dealing with Rejection I point out that it is normal for people to cut off things that bring them pain. So when a child is embarrassed about their inabilities or failure to perform, they will cut off their connection with the source of pain. If school frightens them they want to avoid school. If speaking in public embarrassed them they will avoid ever having to do it again. If they are laughed at for some weakness or slip in performance they will quit that arena of endeavour, such as music, sport, academics and so on.
That’s a form of ‘shut down’.
At the same time people can be shut down by having a change of attitude toward something. If we are mocked for some item of clothing we will quickly lose any liking for it. If we are offended by a teacher or group leader we can lose all interest in the subject or interest group.
Of course, the world uses our self-preservation instinct to try to drive us away from such things as faith in God or trust in the Bible. There are many who mock Christians, in the hope they can drive the Christian away from their faith.
So there is a wide range of ways in which offences, ideas and experiences steer our attitudes and responses, and often cause us to ‘shut down’ to things.
I have met people who abandoned church because one individual or one incident offended them. I know people who gave up lessons or interests because something was said that changed their attitude.
Prejudices, antagonisms, pride, jealousies, resentments and similar attitudes can be transferred to us and cause us to shut down something we were already enjoying or happy to explore.
“Don’t have anything to do with him. He’s from a bad family.”
“You should do something far more valuable than that with your time.”
“When I tell you what I know about her you’ll quit her as a friend on the spot!”
“Those people are hypocrites and they’ll only look down on you.”
Obviously there are things that are offensive and to be avoided. Parents are meant to teach their children to accurately perceive dangers and distractions and avoid them. However, in that process, our instructors, from parents to teachers, coaches, pastors and leaders, also transfer to us their set of prejudices and programming.
The media also transmits biassed impressions, half truths, incomplete stories and even fake facts, so that too contributes to public perceptions.
I recently reflected on this Shut Down process due to some fine young people who were offered great input, but rejected it based on bias they picked up. A teaching program was available to them that would really help them but they had negative ideas about the program and took up offence against it. Rather than just decline the opportunity, they took a stand against the program. So there was some kind of offence driving them, not just disinterest.
Most things we do or could do can be faulted. Programs and processes are designed to achieve one thing or another, not all things at once. Teaching programs emphasise certain ideas, leaving out others. Disciplines compete with free will, while suiting ourselves means we avoid good things we don’t realise we need. So if you want to be critical there will be room to find fault.
Maybe the process could be managed better, or the people who support it are not your kind of people, or it originated in some source you don’t respect, or it includes some information you don’t like, and so on.
In life we lean to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Learning to be informed and discerning is far healthier for us than to be reactive.
So my topic here is to Avoid Shut Down. If you are the reactive type, cutting things off and burning bridges, then you are hacking great chunks out of your life. Yes, you need to be wise about what you respect and who you listen to, but you can’t just lop off everything that doesn’t suit you. In the end you’ll be trapped in a very narrow world and very shallow life.
I have greatly appreciated a range of experiences over the decades of my life, where I realised that certain types of people, certain groups and certain topics were not as I had been told. I had picked up prejudices and Shut Down some things before I knew much about them. Happily, in a few cases at least, I was pushed past my prejudices and discovered that my impressions were quite wrong. I could open the door of my mind to people and things I was otherwise Shut Down to.
I am not suggesting you dive into everything you have learned to disregard. I don’t advocate drinking poison or bathing in filthy water. But I do caution that you may well have taken offences and learned prejudices that have created Shut Down. You may well be Shut Down to things that are good for you, such as Christian faith, Bible Truth, the ministry of the Holy Spirit and effective Christian living, as well as many things about your natural life.
Consider things you are Shut Down to and the feelings of offence behind your choices. Invite the Spirit of God to prompt you about things you have reacted to and Shut Down that God wants to open to you.
There is no prize for being a critical, judgment, deluded, offended, limited and miserable person. There is great joy in living in the breadth of life God gives to you. So bring your heart to God and open yourself to Him and all He has for you. And as you move forward be careful to Avoid Shut Down.