“The feeling of being ‘offended’ is a warning indicator that is showing you where to look within yourself for unresolved issues.” ~Bryant McGill
As I ponder back over my forty-odd years on this planet, I can’t really remember going lengths of time without feeling offended. By someone’s words, or actions. It was simply my default reaction.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t enjoy it. Feeling offended never feels good. Ever. There’s always a sting. Which is probably why the (many) “feeling offended” memories are so prominent. And clear.
Some of them were simple and relatively unimportant.
Like the time I was sharing some important insight with my (then) partner. I was mid-sentence and fully engaged emotionally only to be cut short as he decided to take an incoming call from his ex-wife. And promptly left the room.
Yup, I took offense.
Or what about the time, more recently, when I discovered I’d been “unfriended” by one of my oldest friends on Facebook? No explanation offered. Just gone.
Yup, I took (major) offense to that too.
As I reach further into my treasure chest of memories, there are also those bigger “feeling-offended” moments. Those that had a more reaching impact on me. That made me question myself. My values. My self-worth.
My daughter’s dad left the country when she was three. My relationship with him was difficult, so I’ll admit I was relieved. It did mean, however, that I was to be a single parent in every sense of the word.
And I took that role seriously. I was young and naïve, but I did my best with what I knew and felt proud of each parenting milestone.
Her dad, on the other hand, showed up annually for a week or two, created a bit of emotional upheaval, and then left. Again. His input (emotionally and financially) was limited.
I was left to make all the decisions—important or not—and I liked that. It felt free. Independent.
When my daughter was about ten, I decided to move her into a different schooling system, one that I felt she would thrive in. Her dad caught wind of this and decided he had the right to interfere. And he did.
What followed was an unforgettable telephonic conversation, wherein I was lambasted for my somewhat shortsightedness in her educational needs, as well as in my general parenting too!
I. WAS. OFFENDED.
Who wouldn’t be! Right?
And boy, did I wallow in that pit of self-indignant injustice! For weeks!
Just who did he think he was! Seriously??
And it felt uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I vacillated between anger, hurt, and indignation. I replayed the event over and over and over. It consumed my thoughts. Totally.
Over time, the thoughts faded and life moved on. Yet if I engaged that memory, all the feelings flooded back, just as powerfully.
The sense of injustice.
The feelings of worthlessness.
In a way, I felt powerless to it.
Feeling offended was a reaction. How could it ever be a choice?
In recent years, I’ve come to understand more about how we interact with our thinking. That our thoughts are separate from us. And that engaging with them can be a choice we make. Consciously.
With this in mind, let’s look at what really happens in the process of us feeling offended.
1. We attach our sense of value to a certain aspect of our outer persona (what we present to the world, aka our ego).
If you value yourself as a kind person, it’s not surprising that you would feel offended if someone said you were unkind. Being kind is how you present yourself to the world. It forms part of how you validate your worthiness.
Conversely, if someone told you that you suck at being an astronaut, would you care? Probably not in the slightest.
Because there’s no attachment to that as part of your identity.
In the example above, being a “good mom” was part of my identity. It gave me a sense of validation. Having my parenting questioned left me doubting my sense of worthiness.
But the truth is, we’re not our persona. Our worthiness is not attached to our ego.
Feeling worthy is not something we find outside of ourselves. It’s inside us. Always has been. We simply need to reconnect with it.
2. We attach value to other people’s opinions.
Imagine that you’re innocently walking down the street, minding your own business and feeling content. A big burly chap accidentally bumps into you, and as you turn to look at him he screams at you. Expletives flow out of his mouth about how clumsy you are. How you should watch where you’re going.
Yet it was his fault!
How do you feel? Probably pretty offended. And angry. Insulted even. How dare he!
But here’s the thing: His reaction had absolutely nothing to do with you. At all.
He may have just been fired. Or had a fight with his mate. You were simply the excuse he found to vent his anger.
So, in taking offense, aren’t you wasting your good mood? Will it help matters if you shout back? Will he ever apologize? Doubtful… You’ll just feel bad.
We never, ever, know what others are thinking. Or feeling. We’ll never see life through their eyes. Which means our perspectives will always be different.
So how can we ever see someone else’s opinion about us as our truth? It’s their truth. Only theirs.
My daughter’s dad had no idea what I did as a parent on a day-to-day basis. How could he?
Also, his idea of parenting varied hugely from mine. We had vastly different perspectives. In his world, his was right, and ditto, me in mine.
So how could I place any validity or truth to his criticism of my parenting?
How could I truly feel offended? His outburst was never about me. It was simply his opinion. That’s all.
Choosing not to feel offended comes from a place of strength. It’s an empowered perspective. A choice. But it doesn’t mean that we’re condoning the offender’s behavior. No, not at all. Quite the opposite applies.
Spiteful or derogatory comments grounded in phobias, like racism or homosexuality, are mostly fear-based. And they’re usually founded in ignorance.
By choosing not to feel offended, we’re taking the high road. A higher perspective. One that feels good.
We’re only ever responsible for our role in this interaction.
Honestly? It’s not always easy. Especially when it’s close to home. Involving someone we love.
Sometimes feeling offended is simply part of the human experience. And that’s okay.
From an empowered place we can move past it. Let it go. And lean toward our innate sense of well-being.
Feeling worthy feels confident. Content. Relaxed. Safe.
It’s knowing that we’re enough. Total unconditional acceptance. Just as we are. No judgment.
As we extend that to others, we become immune to their behavior. And opinions. There’s just unconditional acceptance.
And that’s when you truly feel empowered. When you can really accept your role in taking offense.
And simply choose not to.
It’s that simple.