Offense seems to be an obligation. A natural response to someone else. When we see things that we do not like, we feel we have no choice but to become upset. And express it adamantly.
We view our reponse as outside of our hands. We are only reacting to others.
Like most thing, however, offense is really an issue of the self. It has nothing to do with the person who is offending you and everything to do with you.
Yes, some people say and do things that may seem ridiculous to you. But have you ever thought about how you say and do things that are ridiculous to others.
The issue of being offended has to do with how we choose to respond.
In the same way that we choose to be offended, we can also choose to not be offended, which has several advantages.
We can listen to and understand others better.
We increase our opportunities to learn.
We can more easily resolve conflict.
We grow our ability to influence the world around us.
Once you choose to respond in offense, your ability to make a difference will be negligible. But if you choose to not be offended, then you have taken the first step towards influence.
photo by Kristina Alexanderson (Creative Commons)
Making this choice, however, is difficult. Here are a five ways to help you change how you respond.
1. Find value in every person. You have to believe that every person in the world has intrinsic value, and then look for it. Understand that their perspective is unique to them, and that is is beneficial. Seek what is helpful instead of being focused on what you find offensive.
Always be asking what they can teach you. Search for what you can learn. You will be amazed at what you find.
2. Learn to listen. Most of us don’t. We listen to people that we agree with because we already like what they are saying. but we rarely listen to anyone else. The only way to understand another person is to hear what they have to say. To listen with the goal of understanding, not arguing.
If someone is offending you, then it is a good time to stop talking and start listening. If nothing else, you are less likely to say something you would regret.
3. Try something new. Like strange food, the reason we don’t like something different is only because we haven’t tried it. Ignorance leads to fear. Fear leads to being offended. Start with something simple like food or a cultural experience. If you feel courageous enough, switch to CNN or Fox News, depending on your political persuasion.
Develop a spirit of courage and adventure. The only way to understand a different perspective is to try it.
4. Apologize. One of the main reasons we are so easily offended is pride. The most humbling thing you can do is apologize when you are wrong. We are all wrong at some point. When it is your turn, do something beneficial about it. Apologize. It will force you to humble yourself and will speak volumes to the other person.
Today, find someone you have offended and apologize to them.
5. Be a friend. Don’t feel that is it your obligation to change people. Being a friend is about loving them where they are. Friends encourage and help. They find what a person needs and then seek to help meet those needs. No strings attached.
The people who are in the best position to influence us, are these true friends.
Being offended is really a selfish way to treat people. It is a response focused not on the other person, but only on ourselves. It is about what we want them to be. It is about our desire to change them.
The only person in this world that you can change is you.
The only way to remove offense from your life is to choose to respond differently.
Are you easily offended? What have you found that helps you choose otherwise?
Help all of us choose better by sharing your ideas in the comments.