Offended. We’ve all been there. I’ve cried my fair share of offended, frustrated tears, and stomped my feet in anger at the gall of someone to make such an offensive comment. And the offense always comes at just the wrong moment, too. Maybe you can relate to one of these sentiments:
They have no idea how many hours I put into that!
They have no idea how much thought I put into the planning!
They have no idea how I managed to pull that off well with 5 other balls in the air to juggle, and I still managed to feed kids dinner when I got home!
There is an ancient proverb that rightly observes that “it is harder to win an offended brother than a strong city.” Our natural response to offense is anger and frustration. It only makes sense. But this angry, frustrated state doesn’t really do anything for me or anyone else, aside from cut down on my productivity (and it does). Lately I’ve been struck by how easily and how often I find myself offended—even if just slightly. So easily I let offense ruin my day or even my week, that I’ve decided something must be done.
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF OFFENDERS:
1) Those who mean well.
Though their delivery is offensive, there are many people who offer their “helpful advice” because they truly believe that it is just that: helpful. Their heart in sharing this advice with us, the offended, is not to belittle us, but to add to us. In these cases, difficult as it may be, I’m learning to look past the offensiveness of the implications the offender made, say “Thank you,” and laugh it off. Most of us have been on the offending side of this— the part where the words came out of our mouths, but just as they hit the air they didn’t sound like what we we had intended. There’s really no recovery. I’ve been on both sides of this, and I’m making the decision to have some grace for the offender when I’m on the offended side.
2) Those who are just mean.
Let’s face it: these people exist. Everywhere. These are the people who WILL say and do mean things, and likely on PURPOSE, with no regard for their negative impact on us. They may even speak offenses passive-aggressively whilst smiling. What do we do about them? Here, I think it’s important to remember that all of us operate through the filter of our past experiences (both good and bad) whether we recognize it or not. Hurt people hurt people. People who have been talked down to talk down to others. Those who have been criticized to a pulp are the nastiest of negative critics. It’s the sad reality of the world we live in. My Momma always told me, “There’s a reason everyone acts the way they do. You never know everything someone has been through.” Here is where I’m learning, once again, to implement some compassion. Is it right for these people to speak this way? No (and in the right moment, with the right attitude, I might respectfully say as much if necessary). But there is something much more important going on here than my pride or feelings being wounded. Here is a human being who has likely been treated as less than a human being at some point in their life. How will I respond?
In both scenarios I have two choices: I can stay angry and resentful towards this person, or I can choose compassion. This is the moment where I have decided that I want to live unoffended. I know it’s not easy, but I believe wholeheartedly in the truth spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Kindness, not retaliation, is the answer. Compassion, not resentment, is the cure. I haven’t figured it out, but I want to live life unoffended. I think it’s in the best interest of my relationships, my workplace, and my own sanity. It’s going to take some practice, some encouragement, and some intentionality, but I think it’s worth it.
Ellen D. is Daxko’s Air Traffic Controller, organization queen, master event planner, and lover of running.