As this year draws to a close, it seems this country has reached new heights of being offended. I don’t tend to share my political views publicly, and am not about to start, but I think everyone can agree that the recent election has brought out an extreme toll of emotion. But even more than in politics, we are choosing to be offended in just about everything. Is it really worth it to place your opinion higher than the value of that person? Yes, being offended is a choice you make. But you don’t have to. I love this quote by LDS apostle, David A. Bednar:
“It is ultimately impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”
You cannot offend me. I cannot offend you. There is such power in those words. And by choosing to take offense, you are ultimately creating a prison for yourself. I would venture to say that most of the time, your “offender” had no ill intention and probably won’t even give the situation another fleeting thought. Choosing to take offense is choosing to dwell in that constant negative space. It’s not an easy skill to acquire, in fact I think it’s something we need to consciously work at every day. So, how do we choose not to be offended?
Put yourself in the “offender’s” shoes.
Understand that their perspective is unique to them. Seek what is helpful instead of being focused on what you find offensive. Listen with the goal of understanding, not arguing. Always be asking what they can teach you. Search for what you can learn. You will be amazed at what you find.
Realize that your opinions are not you.
You are not emotionally attached to your opinions. You are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to disagree with someone. That doesn’t define you. Many people are easily offended because they can’t emotionally differentiate between their thoughts and their inner sense of self. If you tie your identity to your opinion so closely, you will feel rejected if that opinion is disagreed with. That can obviously hurt, but it is inaccurate.
Love the person more than you love being right.
If you value your relationship with whoever may have offended you, then don’t let opposition to your thoughts and beliefs create a wedge between you. Don’t feel that is it your obligation to change people. Being a friend is about loving them where they are. No strings attached.
Accept other’s imperfections.
If you expect others to act and speak a certain way, or assume others will be as kind or understanding as you are, you will almost always be offended. Instead, allow people to be human. They are, after all. Show them compassion when they don’t rise to your expectations. We all have flaws, including you. Theirs just might be different from yours, and that’s OK.
True compassion shouldn’t allow harm to ourselves either. See yourself as more than your behavior. Self-acceptance will cancel others’ ability to offend you. Validation doesn’t come from their opinions about you, it comes from within.
It’s a great challenge in our world to live a life of contentment, regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. Especially when we love those people so deeply. Though it may take a lifetime of practice, it is truly one of the best kept secrets for living a happy life.