Somehow, someway, we have trained ourselves to be easily offended. The minute I hit send on this post, I will begin the process of offending someone about being offended. We all know that it is true, don’t we? Yet, at any given point, we must stop before sharing our true feelings due to the fret and worry over whose feelings we have just hurt. The challenge is that it doesn’t matter what the topic is. It can be baseball; people just go off if you share an opinion. Look at the “Official Atlanta Braves Fan Facebook Page.” These people are screaming at each other on FB for talking about a game! Ever found yourself at a dinner party and politics come up in the discussion? Your heart starts to race; your forehead becomes sweaty, all because you aren’t sure if you are in a field littered with landmines – and these are your friends!
We Might be Anxious
People who are easily offended might struggle with anxiety and a need to control their view and version of the universe. They are accustomed to being in control of things in their lives. As a result, they may also need to control others’ responses. This is a pretty irrational thought, but it is so true! Taking offense to a perceived insult can be a function of anxiety. It might require the other person to acknowledge and tailor their verbiage and demeanor to match the offended person’s worldview. In essence, anxious people need to see their version of the truth as the only truth, which can help mitigate their experience of anxiety. That’s one thought.
We Might be Insecure
Folks that feel insecure have often been invalidated and learned others will not respond to their needs in helpful or meaningful ways. They might not have learned how to get their needs met appropriately and respond in a passive-aggressive manner. As a result, they may find they are more easily offended than others as a way to acknowledge their pain and seek validation of their experience. I see this all the time, and sometimes I see it in the mirror.
We Might be Highly Sensitive
Some of us are merely more sensitive than others. That’s our temperament, how we are wired. It’s extremely hard to be overly sensitive and have healthy relationships, but this is a changeable quality when you recognize this is how you are. One approach when you feel harmed by someone’s remark or lack of attention is to consider: How else could I think of this action except as being meant to hurt me? You might think that someone is having a bad day, they’re actually trying to help you, or that they’re simply inept at being tactful. We really can be a thin-skinned bunch.
We Might Have Experienced a Traumatic Childhood
When we are abused or traumatized as kids, the hurtful action taken against us gets stored in our brains differently than less distressing memories because they are highly emotional and seen as a threat. It’s inevitable, and we all have some measure of trauma. My friend Julie Homrich has taught me a bit about BIG “T” trauma and LITTLE “T” trauma. Even as adults, we have sore spots that can easily get “re-triggered.” If you were left out of activities or bullied as a child, every slight in adulthood might tap into those ugly memories and make you feel as you did as a child. As a result, we can be easily offended. Having a chat with a trained counselor or therapist is so good in this case.
We Might Just Be Selfish and Certain
When we leave no room for uncertainty in our life, as in we are always right, we will be easily offended. If someone doesn’t believe as we do, they must be wrong. If someone doesn’t vote the way we do, they must be wrong. When we have other folks convey a thought, opinion, or belief that we disagree with, can we not just let it go? Is it okay that people are perceived as wrong? Is it okay if they are wrong? Is it possible that we are wrong? Now I’ve gone too far…clearly! My point is that we have to attain some sense of decency and decorum in our personal exchange of ideas and ideologies, do we not? At some point, the gateway drug to the violence we are experiencing on our streets is that we have drawn red lines around our worldview and have determined that those lines are the point of no return, and once crossed, we start pushing the verbal nuclear codes into our preferred method of social media, or worse. It is okay that people do not see the world as you do!
So, What Are We To Do?
Taking offense can be a legitimate feeling when someone is expressing an unfair or deprecating sentiment about you or a group of people with whom you identify. It’s plenty valid to get offended at racist or sexist remarks. No, you are not overly sensitive when you express your displeasure at someone’s ignorant statement about people who look like you. But, if it’s a frequent mechanism by which insecurities or unresolved and personal issues are exposed, it’s most likely a problem. Get a unbiase thought on that and see where it takes you. It was a real struggle for me, but a struggle that bettered my life by a country mile!
LEAVE ROOM FOR UNCERTAINTY
You realize that none of us know everything about everything, correct? As a result, stay coachable, teachable, and flexible. I promise you that your life will be so much easier. It isn’t easy, but to hold your certainty loosely will allow you to see why someone sees the world differently. That takes the edge off of being angered or offended. It also allows you to be teachable, even if the lesson is what not to think or do.
CREATE SPACE FOR DIVERSE THOUGHT
There is a reason that the Creator didn’t make everyone the same way that you were created. Remember in the Bible, where Isaiah said, “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts?” Me too. He created us in such a beautifully diverse way that we are formed to be better together. Diversity is essential to better living and better thinking. But the truth is that where diversity exists, so also exists conflict. I realize that we have a melting pot of cultures and diversity here in the Land of the Free and that diversity asks something from us. It asks us to see that God made no mistake when He created the wonderful you – AND – the wonderful people that aren’t like you. The world is inhabited by far more people unlike you than like you. Heaven is going to be filled with folks unlike you. But the one central point here is that they were not created in error any more than you were. Learn to embrace diverse thoughts, cultures, and people. You will be so much happier when you do.
LET IT GO
I learned a phrase several years ago that may seem foolish to you, but it has been life-giving to me. When someone says something that seems offensive or even odd, I simply reply with, “how ’bout that?” It allows me to make a statement and keeps me from jumping into the deep water of offense or outrage. Just simply, “how ’bout that?” Idina Menzel was right when she sang, Let it Go in the Disney film, Frozen – LET IT GO! You really don’t have to respond. When we do, it typically makes us feel worse, not the other way around. Choosing to be offended by everything will literally eat you up from the inside, like drinking poison intended for the other party. LET IT GO and see how much happier you become.
More often than not, taking on an offense is a choice. Be very careful how much offense you choose to take into your soul. Like a three-pack-a-day habit, it’ll slowly but surely kill you.