Taking Offense is How the Cows Get Out

A friend told me that joke about 10 or 12 years ago.

I find the phrase “taking offense” to be fascinating, mostly because it implies right in the phrasing that the action comes on the part of the offended and not the offender. As is often attributed to the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can offend you without your consent.” Whether or not she said it, I believe it is true.

I had a conversation with my oldest daughter the other day about this very thing. She told me about something her brother “made” her do. I realize that as an 8-year-old, her big feelings do seem out of her control and that she probably responded from her gut without really thinking about it. That is age appropriate, and not outside of expectations. I totally see where she is coming from. I still don’t believe he “made” her do anything though, and however she was feeling, she still chose to react from her instinct, rather than thinking it through and reacting differently. Do I think she gets this concept yet? No, not at all, but I do think it’s one of those things she will hear me saying in her head for the rest of her life because I say it so often now.

All feelings are valid, but even if you feel bothered by something someone else said, the idea that they said it simply to offend you is almost certainly not true. Most people aren’t trolling you just to get a response. My dad does that, but most of the other people I’ve ever met are more interested in honest and sincere dialogue than in irritating people for their own amusement. By the way, I didn’t figure that out until I was 25.

And here is a picture of a cat because I like pictures and I like cats.

But, lets get back to the phrase again:

Feeling: upset.
Reaction: taking offense.

My opinion can upset you. You can feel however you feel about it. Have the feeling. What you choose to do with that feeling though, is separate. If you want to know how I deal with those feelings without taking offense, read on.

Some people are blatantly honest, even to the point of rude. Some people take pride in that. Both of those things are fine, even though it will likely alienate them from others. That’s their choice. I take pride in it being really difficult to offend me. No matter what someone says to me or about me, I don’t have to get upset about it. If I do, I allow that person to live rent free in my brain and ain’t no one getting a free ride in my head. I usually focus instead on how ludicrous what they said was or how difficult it must be to be that _insert negative word here_. Truthfully, I feel sorry for people when they get huffy at me, and I find it more than just a little amusing that they are allowing ME to live rent free in their heads.

Can you choose how you feel? Sometimes you have some control over that, but generally, no. But we can choose how to react to how we feel. I choose to laugh, rather than to get offended. And I’m much happier now than when I used to choose the reverse.

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