The other day someone sent me a private message saying how offended he was by something someone else had commented on in one of my personal social networks. The comments were going back and forth and while not pointed directly at anyone, this particular comment must have hit a nerve for him. He said he was deeply offended by the remark and asked if I could please remove that comment.
As you can imagine, the last thing I want is for someone to feel offended at something posted on my social network. However, when I started to think about it, I wondered why the person was offended. It begged the question - what is being offended? So I started by looking up the published meaning:
of·fend əˈfend/ verb
1. cause to feel upset, annoyed, or resentful. "viewers said they had been offended by bad language"
synonyms: hurt someone's feelings, give offense to, affront, displease,upset, distress, hurt, wound; More
Well, I’m not sure I agree that someone can cause someone else to feel a certain way. I think we have weaknesses and people hit a nerve with us. I believe it’s an opportunity to do a little self-reflection.
Back in grade school I remember being taught “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Now this wasn’t an invitation for kids to call each other names, but it was a way for a child to understand that you don’t have to let the name calling hurt you.
People are going to have opinions and even some negativity. But if we let it offend us, isn’t it just letting it get to us? Why not just let it go. Or talk about it rationally? Or ask a question (in a non-sarcastic way)? When we respond with something even worse, we’re just hurting ourselves even worse. In essence, we’re not being in integrity with ourselves, because we are reacting in a way that is not in alignment with our values. And then we’re the pot calling the kettle black (I love idioms, look some up and have some fun with them)!
So you might be curious what was said and if the person should have been offended. But that’s not the point of this. The point is to be able to know yourself and be confident with who you are. Be loving and not fearful. And do not allow something to offend you. You can decide not to engage, you can ignore it, you can even tell the person it offended you… if that’s what you need to do. But it’s probably not going to get any better if you do that in a way that is passive aggressive, or sarcastic, or public and meant to punish the person.
Instead, you might take a look inside, and ask yourself the hard question - why is this offending me? What is going on with me right now? And might I be making an assumption? Do I really know what someone else’s intent is? And even if it is harmful, why would I allow them to get to me?
To reiterate, this is not an invitation to say hurtful things about a person or a group. It’s a tool to help you not allow things to hurt you. In this day and age when everyone’s so afraid of saying anything for fear of offending someone else, I think we’re missing the opportunity to have some really good conversations!
Feel free to share what you think about all this ... I promise I won't get offended ;)
PS - Prayers and love to all of those affected by Hurricane Matthew