About the Author

Michelle Ami Reyes, PhD, is an author and activist. Her first book, Becoming All Things, is the recipient of the 2022 ECPA award. Michelle writes at the intersection of multiculturalism, faith, and justice. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.

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things we love
& you will too!
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  1. Thank you Michelle for this article. Many people today are easily offended, not just in matters of race and culture, but in every part of their life. I have had to ask forgiveness more than once, because something I said was taken in a way that I never meant it. I am learning to stop and think before I speak, but I am grateful for those friends that not only forgive me, but also help me to see how the words I spoke could have been hurtful. I pray that we all may extend God’s grace to others, remembering that He has certainly extended grace to us!

  2. If someone told me I was exotic I would say God bless you because to me it would be the ultimate compliment. What is negative about the word exotic. I would love to have a dialogue about this topic. Let’s be careful we are not borrowing trouble or sorrow.

  3. Michelle, this is so well written & thoughtful! Thank you for sharing. Assigning motives to words is a knee jerk sport these days yet impossible for anyone but God to do accurately. My Daddy always reminded us when we were cranked up about a slight that “you cannot be insulted without your permission”. That took the wind out of many a sail of indignation in our growing up years. I admit I’m still learning to apply his wisdom but am thankful I’m further down that learning path than I would be without his godly counsel! I could hear his voice in your words. Thanks for the sweet memories this am! Blessings!

    • Thanks for your wise words, Ruth! And your Daddy sounds like a very wise man 🙂 “You cannot be insulted without your permission.” This is so true. We can either choose to take offense, or we can choose to stay calm, figure out how to connect, and go deeper. The choice is ours.

  4. I truly never thought that I might be offending someone if I inquired about their heritage. This is an entirely new concept to me and I appreciate your honesty in writing about your pain. I know I have been guilty of this in the past because I love peoples stories, and this is (was) a way for me to start those conversations. I will be more sensitive in the future of how those questions might effect someone. Thank you.

    • Hey, Bettye! I love your comment. It is so kind and sensitive and thoughtful. I think for many Asian Americans, like myself, the question of heritage makes us sometimes feel like foreigners. I think some of those feelings just spawn naturally due to the context or tone. But, at the same time, I also know most folks genuinely don’t mean anything offensive by it. It’s usually just a conversation starter. So, I think it’s a matter of 1) not taking offense, but also 2) encouraging folks on how to ask better questions. For example, instead of “Where are you from?”, you could ask, “What are your ethnic roots?”. OR, instead of asking, “Where were you born?”, you could ask, “How long have you lived in (this city)?” Again, we have to make space for not being offended *and* for being willing to change our language. My hope and prayer is that we can grow and learn together <3

  5. Thank you for being sensitive to many questions floating around in the atmosphere. We just don’t want to be labeled (even when an innocent comment is meant to bring you a smile). Why are humans so easily offended or made upset? Where does that come from? I think the enemy knows how to influence people to push certain buttons; politics, income inequality, vehicles, schools attended, name brand clothes, supervisors, coworkers, style and price of shoes and jewelry, family background, old or new money, athletic ability, sports teams, accents, parents/grandparents, vegan or not, natural childbirth or not, and online Church or in person Church. Now, does any of this make me a better Christ Follower? No, it does not.

    God’s love for All His Children is a Miracle !

    We all come from Adam and Eve. Down through the ages of time we acquired diversity. Let’s leave it there. Let’s learn to trust and obey God. Let’s be intentional when we love and forgive one another because God is intentional when He loves us and forgives us.

    God bless your steps.

    Brenda

    Your Sister in Christ

    • Love this, Brenda! Being kind is an intentional posture. It won’t just happen. And I love all the differences you mapped out in your comment. There truly are so many differences between us, as fellow humans. Picking fights over all of them does not make us better Christ followers. Of course, we can disagree or have a different opinion or even, at times, challenge an idea. But let’s – as you say – “intentionally” do so in a posture of love, grace, and kindness.

  6. Michelle,

    These days it seems people get offended easily about almost everything. I have a saying “If you don’t like me the way I am-then talk to Jesus.” “He is the one who made me this way.” Kind of a laughing it off way. There are co-workers with lifestyles that I don’t agree with. You won’t hear me saying a thing about it. I just treat them as God would-showering them with kindness. It makes life that much more enjoyable. We won’t always agree with everyone. We just need to forgive & forget like Jesus does with our sins.

    Blessings 🙂

    • “Treat them the way God would.” So good! You are absolutely right, Beth. We won’t always agree with folks, especially in conversations on culture and race (but also pretty much any big topic of the day). God did not call us to pick fights with everyone we disagree with, but rather to show love, grace, kindness, and to point people to God.

  7. I’m finding so much grace in your words. And I understand that this is not an invitation to sloppy insensitivity, but, rather, a call to mature acknowledgment of human frailty.

    • Thanks, Michele, for your words. I like the way you put this: “a call to mature acknowledgment of human frailty.” Yes and amen! And, I think, the more we understand our own human error and frailty, the more compassionate we will be to our fellow humans.

  8. Romans 12:20 KJV
    Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

  9. I used to compliment strangers a lot. It never occurred to me that complimenting a beautiful smile or hair or shoes etc. could be considered labeling. It’s become too controversial, perceived as a negative or back-handed compliment. It’s sad when you’re afraid to be nice because you might inadvertently offend.

    To “label” myself I’m a slightly older, white, grandma that means no harm. I hope people can see Christ’s light through *silent* me.

    • Indiane, I feel your pain with you. It truly is sad that in our day and age people are afraid to give compliments/be nice for fear of being misinterpreted. Lord, have mercy. I think that’s why these kinds of conversations are so important. We need to keep finding ways to each other — to keep encouraging each other to not assume the worst, to not be easily offended, to let things slide off and keeping on keeping on. In a world of compassion fatigue, may Christ give us the energy and strength and resilience to keep on loving our neighbors as best we can!

  10. I used to think people should always take everything in the best possible way and just smile it off, and then I met various individuals where, in fact, their “compliments” were warning signs, and… eh, I don’t know anymore. When we have influence, we have some degree of responsibility to not ignore/pass-over predators in the church, is what I’m saying.

    We do still have a responsibility to yes, find out whether a comment was accidentally hurtful! (which happens so much, especially among those who don’t have friends of the other group who are close enough to tell them that something isn’t coming across the way they meant it) But when it turns out something was in fact a clear signal that their view is that a specific group of human beings should be put down and pushed to the edges (whether that’s coming out of misogyny or racism or something else), then we have the responsibility to address that as sin within the church.

    So insofar as it is just a slight against ourselves: yes! (although if people mean well, then they *probably* also want, on some level, to know that what they’re saying is hurting you! Even if it feels like a “pst, you’ve got toilet paper stuck to your shoe” and is embarrassing in the moment. So there is also that. In general, the things I have learned: please don’t compliment a cancer patient about extreme weight loss, please don’t compliment young women in sexualized ways, and please don’t imply, to anyone, that they are “not from here” or otherwise don’t belong, as part of a compliment; things hit differently when people feel like outsiders to begin with) But if it’s well-meant, then yes, make efforts to take it how it’s meant!

    But if we discover that someone’s words are not well-meant but instead indicative of how someone’s treating a group of people (and often peoples’ behavior in private or one-on-one worse than their behavior when others are listening) then we have a responsibility within the church (esp. with regards to people who are trying to push those who aren’t white outside of the church, or trying to make it even more difficult for women to speak out about inappropriate touching, etc.). People still shouldn’t go nuclear as the first line of response to sin within the church, but in the cases where the words are part of a pattern of sin within the church, it really does need to be dealt with by the church.

    • Grateful for your nuance, KC. Absolutely. I agree with you. As followers of Jesus, we’re not called to turn a blind eye. I’m speaking more of what posture we lean in with. We can choose to lean in with grace and a choice to not automatically make assume the worst about an individual. As we lean in, we can ask clarifying questions, such as, “What did you mean by that?” or “I heard you just say…Is that what you meant to say?” etc. That way, we can approach every situation with nuance, and be able to identify those who have just, perhaps, awkwardly phrased something (but had good intentions) versus those who do not have good intentions. Even then, I still believe that God can use our words of kindness and grace, our posture of “calling in” those who are openly racist, to stir people’s minds and change hard hearts.

  11. When I was a little girl oh so many centuries ago, we were taught at school and at home the old Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Today we often tell others to take the high road or to shake it off. I like the old Golden Rule idea as it reminds us to do as our God has instructed us to do – Love your neighbor as yourself. Christ said it best on the cross Forgive them Father for they know not what they do. Are we any better that we cannot forgive a remark that more than likely was not ill intended, just poorly thought out by an inquisitive mind. I know I’m always curious about other cultures and who best to ask than someone of that perceived culture? Curiosity is not a sin but how we treat others can be. Let’s just all be mindful of our words. They can often be dangerous. My mother told me to put myself in someone else’s shoes first before I spoke. Good advice for all of us. Even at 77 I have to remind myself to be kind with what I say even to my family that know me.
    Thanks for the reminder about how to treat others.

    • Hi, Loretta. I love this line from your comments: “Do as our God has instructed us to do – Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes and amen! I like how you talk about curiosity. Curiosity is a beautiful, God-given skill. It makes us want to ask questions and get to know people better. And you’re right that often times, in our curiosity, we don’t always phrase things the best way. We need to have grace in this too…or else we will end up squashing the very curiosity that we want people to have about our cultures and stories in the first place!

  12. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I know that when I choose to fume over someone’s words, I letting them control me. By Forgiving, I’m giving Control of myself, back to God. I’ve learned to ask myself, “Who’s Controlling Me right now?”

    • Amen! This is such a good word. We need to ask ourselves, “Who is controlling me right now?” I just love that perspective. When we forgive, we don’t let selfishness or hate or anger control us…that is the way of Christ. Love this so much. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. A very thoughtful post. I think a meme I saw summed it up nicely. It went something like this: The injured are offended at the slightest thing. The healed lets it roll off their backs.

    Thank you for sharing.

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