The dangers of taking offense…

Be mindful of how extra vulnerable you make yourself by allowing yourself to take offense to the words and actions of others.  There is a danger in it that I think often gets ignored because when you choose to take offense, you set yourself up in your own mind as a “victim”. I truly wish it was more widely understood how much self-sabotage we cause ourselves in this manner. In earnest, we cause the most damage to ourselves with our own attitudes.

Offense comes in the form of two origins.. intentional and unintentional.

Intentional Offenses

When someone is intentionally trying to offend you, that understanding alone should help you safeguard yourself from taking anything they say too seriously. Sensible people plain don’t go out of their way to be offensive. If someone is purposefully being offensive, that is the point when the “Consider the Source” rule of thumb should come into play. Really take a second to think about that person’s attitudes, experiences, maturity and level of understandings, before allowing anything that is said or done by that specific person to have any real meaningful affect on you.

Let’s break it down..

If someone is trying purposefully to offend you, then it is their desire to upset you, cause you anger or inspire ill-will or sorrow. They are wanting to illicit a negative response from you. They may actually want YOU to fuel their fire and substantiate their current view by bringing you as far down as they possibly can. It is their hope you (like them) will react rashly. That is the desire of someone who offends on purpose, and that is the most primary and immature response we humans have. Throwing a fit or making a scene is what children do to gain attention, because they have not yet learned how to actually resolve or cope with situations or discomfort. Their focus is entirely based upon how something immediately affects them, and nothing else.

Most times, people who look to offend others are acting out on their own frustration, spawned from their own anger or limited understanding.  They are “reacting” to their own feelings by “retaliating” rather than being sensible and actually trying to resolve an issue .

So I pose the question.. How much merit should you give a verbal insult from someone who lacks understanding, either in the actual facts of a situation, or in how to be sensible in their dealings?

You shouldn’t.

Always strive to be someone who searches for resolution of problems… not who searches to maintain them.

Even if their opinions of you or your actions are somehow “deserved”.. someone with any sense would desire to resolve an issue rather than perpetuate one. Real people of real character would be looking to find a way to address the “problem” in a way that you both could coexist peacefully, or even be sensible enough to simply move on.

Unintentional Offenses

Again.. its important to remember that the things that we say and do are brought about by our own personal and unique beliefs and understandings.  How we were raised, our experiences, the culture we are a part of all affects what things we choose to hold onto as beliefs. It also is the measuring point of what we view as being offensive, and since everyone life experiences are unique, they are going to differ.

Anyone who spends anytime actually looking into cultures other than their own, quickly begins to observe real differences even in the simple “meanings” of words.  As it happens, in one culture there are things that have little meaning, are considered harmless or benign that other cultures have placed different connotations on, to where they  are considered as derogatory or offensive.

Example: In some cultures, belching after a meal is praise, where in others its considered disgusting and rude. What is important to remember is that most people don’t actually desire to offend. Most people don’t have a thorough knowledge and understanding of cultures outside what they grew up with. Even then, there can be vast differences inside a single culture.

When you take into account that it even goes further and that there are different personal “meanings” we associate with things, the ability to never offend someone seems overwhelming. When we are realistic, how do we ever expect someone to know how to avoid every single thing that might offend us? Are we really that self centered to believe that others should be an expert and know how every single thing will affect us? I think its time we stop this way of thinking.

Pure and simple, when we choose to be that sensitive.. we are setting ourselves up to be unhappy… and we are setting others up to be a disappointment. We have far more personal power over this than we like to responsibility for.

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