I have some bad news. And I have some good news.
The bad news? You probably offended someone today. Probably even in the last half hour. Maybe you posted a link to an article that offended someone else’s delicate sensibilities this morning. Or perhaps you didn’t wave at your neighbor as you made your way down your driveway in a need-more-sleep-now haze. I once had an acquaintance tell me she was offended by my eyebrows because they were too skinny, something for which I can thank genetics, not my tweezers.
In today’s world it seems we simply can’t get through the day without being at least somewhat offensive, whether we mean to be or not. And there’s nothing we can do about it when people choose silly reasons to become upset with us. That’s the bad news.
The good news, though, is really good news. While everyone else stumbles around being angry because someone still hasn’t texted to say happy birthday, we can move on. We can release our “right” to be offended. We can live out a life of mercy, grace, and freedom by exercising our “right” to choose our own attitudes. All it takes is a shift in perspective and maybe a few new thoughts.
All people are people. Nobody’s perfect. Even the most lovable, wonderful, kind people are going to break your heart somehow if you hang around them long enough. While we don’t need to walk around expecting to be hurt, we can remember everyone deserves a little bit of grace in all our interactions. Most of the time people aren’t sitting around thinking of ways to poke at our wounds.
Often we aren’t as important as we think we are. That doesn’t mean we’re unimportant. It just means others aren’t often thinking of us the way we think they are. I’m most often reminded of this fact when I sleep a little too late (so, you know, like every day) and I skip washing my hair to save some time. All day I walk around thinking, That lady over there just looked at me. She’s probably wondering why my hair looks so gross. I have to fight the urge to wrap my head in a beach towel. And then someone walks by and says, “Hey, your hair looks cute today. Did you do anything different?” All of a sudden I realize I’m thinking way more about what I look like that day than anyone else. The likelihood that others are judging me because I feel frumpy is pretty low, often because they’re probably thinking about their own set of circumstances more than they’re paying attention to me. The person I’m most important to, it turns out, is me.
When we get offended, we’re assuming the other person had it out for us. Truthfully, most of the time that’s not the case unless the other person is a bully. People are busy–we all forget things, we all find ourselves preoccupied and scattered. We aren’t often thinking of ways to hurt other people. Sometimes we all lose our filters. So when we feel the familiar tugs of offense welling up inside our hearts, it’s important to take a step back, extend some grace, and check our own egos.
And if we encounter things that are truly offensive, not in the nobody-retweeted-me-today sort of way but in the I’m-being-seriously-disrespected sort of way, we can walk away. We don’t have to argue or yell or get upset. When things are truly offensive, we can leave and choose not to take part in that discussion or activity. We’re always allowed to move on.
How do you think it’s most appropriate to react when we feel offended?