In team sports, it is axiomatic that good defense beats good offense. A basketball team which plays tenacious D will disrupt its opponent’s plays, create turnovers, and get a lot of easy fast-break baskets. A football team that forces a lot of 3-and-outs gives itself an edge. The best example I have seen in my lifetime of pitching beating hitting was during the 1988 World Series, when the L.A. Dodgers pitching staff systematically dismantled Oakland’s heavily favored Bash Brothers.
It is natural for us to want to defend things that we value, but sometimes the way we play defense is counterproductive. I am unable to express the great relief I felt when I saw that the church had discouraged boycotts and letter writing campaigns as a means of protesting the HBO program this Sunday. I have learned through sad experience with my own defensive reactions to perceived slights that it is easy to play bad defense. I share with you now some of the steps I have followed in the past which I now regret, and which I hope you are wise enough to learn from.
1. First, work up a good snit.
2. Put on a clown suit, and put a large chip on each shoulder.
3. Enter a public forum with a determination to lay the smack down.
4. Address your listeners with exagerrations and overwrought hysteria. This proves to them that your righteous indignation is genuine, and that YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE OUTRAGED OVER THIS OUTRAGE!!!!!
5. Remember, there is no such thing as overreaction.
If you follow those simple steps, your reward will to bask in the reflected glow of your own self-righteousness and pride for a short time. Take it from one who knows.
It is more difficult to play good defense. Often, the best response is no response at all. I have always admired people who have the self-assurance to remain calm, even when they are being maligned. It’s hard to cheat an honest man, and you can’t insult someone whose dignity is earned.
Sometimes an offense is a manifestation of our wounded pride, and is a result of an inflated sense of our own importance. While we can readily see that the upcoming HBO show holds the potential for offense, is it necessary to actually take offense? I think it is much more productive to acknowledge that the potential for offense certainly exists, but to allow for the possibility that it was not intended. How many of us, when watching Fiddler On The Roof, wondered if Jewish people might have objected to the depiction of some of their religious practices? Probably none of us, even though I am almost certain that at least some Jews were squeamish about the way the film portrayed their lives and their beliefs. We can also be assured that many Jewish people would prefer that we goyische Christians didn’t re-enact the Passover Seder in Sunday School class, and yet we go right ahead and do it anyway.
In the past, I have sometimes treated perceived slights the way Gollum treats The Precious. I have carefully nursed grudges, even when I knew they were damaging to me. One of the points that Elder Bednar made so effectively in his sermon is that being offended is a choice, and that when we choose to take offense, we damage ourselves. That is something to think seriously about. We should also consider the aphorism about why you shouldn’t argue with a fool.