The Offense of Being Offended

Has anyone done something to you, or said something to you, even if it was a few days ago or maybe even months, and you’re still stewing on it?

Yeah, me too.

Most likely we all have people in our lives that offend us. When you read through status updates on social media, it’s almost like a play-by-play of events that people are offended by, both big and small. Family, friends, strangers in a store, coworkers, policy makers, restaurant owners, pastors, and no one is excused from their seeming wrongdoings and missteps. And it can make us feel/appear “cool”, witty, smart, and funny to express offenses publicly. I am guilty as charged.

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase.” — Stephen Fry

It is a competency of emotional intelligence to exercise the ability to stay composed, positive, and kind in trying moments. Those with this skill set are able to remain cool under pressure and choose not to escalate a problem when they feel attacked or aggressively confronted by someone. Just this morning I read these wise words: “A man’s (or woman’s of course) wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” To our glory?  One definition of glory is this: “High renown or honor won by notable achievements.”  If this is true, then it is a notable achievement that will bring us honor when we choose not to notice, to choose not to call someone out, to choose not to be angry, or hurt, or slighted when that someone offends us.

Who is your someone? The one person you let get under your skin, and with whom you allow yourself to be offended by? The one you can justify being offended by because what they’ve done (and are doing) is really hurtful. I know who mine is, and it’s not an ‘is’ but an ‘are’, not a ‘someone’ but a ‘somethem’. They irritate me and seem to make an effort to continue to do so. However, I have a choice. I can choose to stay in my anger toward them, allowing them to depress my day and wreak havoc on my spirits, or I could try this ‘overlooking’ thing.

Are you up for a challenge today? Test this little nugget of wisdom out and see how it works. Make an attempt to choose, not what everyone else around you is doing, but to overlook someone who is/has offended you, just for kicks. Of course this is not referring to staying in a relationship with someone who is dangerous or can cause you harm. But the everyday people in your life that are offensive — who annoy you, who push your buttons, who tweak you the wrong way–what if today you gave them a break? Let them off the hook? It doesn’t mean you forget what they’ve done, or pretend it hasn’t happened, but you choose not to be offended by them.

How does it look to not be offended?  For you it may be shifting your thoughts when you wake up and not allow yourself to brew on the offense first thing in the morning. It may mean not talking about it in the kitchen at work with your coworkers. It may mean saying, “Sure!”, when your manager asks you to do something in a way you read as demeaning instead of rolling your eyes or giving her ‘the look’.  It may mean giving your coworker a smile instead of a sneer, or allowing that person who you disagree with to express their opinion, no matter how annoying it may be. It may be asking a colleague you dislike out to lunch to better understand why they do the things they do.

You of course don’t have to. But it’s Monday. The start of a new week. Why not give it a try today and see what happens? Maybe tomorrow too. Maybe even next week — but that’s a long way off so let’s see how this goes first.