Suspend Your Own Right to Be Offended!
This one ties in with another tip, “Decline to take things personally.” They often go hand in hand and they both have to do with the interpretations you make about the words or actions of others.
When you feel offended, it’s because you’ve interpreted someone’s words or actions through a particular “filter.” As a result of the meaning you make, you feel diminished, disrespected or threatened and react strongly in opposition.
You can think of a filter as an unconscious thought or belief about yourself or the world – something that has makes up an important part of your self-image. For example, the belief that you’re a ‘good person’, or that you’re smart, or that your religion is correct in its teachings, or that war is never justified or some other strongly held, emotionally charged beliefs.
Taking offense can be seen as a defensive reaction to you own negative interpretation of someone’s words or actions. A reaction triggered by a perception that something important to you has been disrespected, that you’ve been hurt or that your cherished self-image has been diminished in some way.
You have every right to be offended by things that others say or do. Yet the question isn’t about your rights, it’s about what’s most healthy and serving for you. Should you choose to take offense (consciously or unconsciously), you’ll most likely end up wasting your precious time and energy dwelling on the perceived hurt and the bad feelings. You’ll squander your precious internal resources feeling upset while incessantly ruminating on or arguing against the position of the other person. In doing so, you may well triumph in your mind, yet remain the victim in your heart.
In choosing not to take things personally, and not to be offended, you make a choice for peace of mind. You’re also make a choice for reduced stress, less drama and more energy and happiness. You choose to be responsible for your own well-being and not responsible for the thoughts or beliefs of others (see Take Full Responsibility).
Hold On or Let It Go
Whatever the words or actions of the other person, they do not have the power to offend and negatively affect you unless you get emotionally hooked and make it so. You’re the one who interprets and makes meaning about the incidents and circumstances of your life. You’re also the one who chooses – usually unconsciously – to hold onto something, or to let it go.
Let me be clear, right now I’m not talking about ignoring words or actions that truly threaten or damage you or your loved ones in some tangible (physical, financial) way. You can and ought to take action to protect yourself. Yet I’d assert that even in these cases, you can do so without taking offense.
What I am talking about here has to do with the slings and arrows – intentional or unintentional – that we all encounter in day to day life. These are events that you can choose to simply let deflect off of you and drop away, rather than grasping hold of, clinging to tightly and turning into big, extended dramas.
So when you find yourself starting to feel offended by something, just stop and mentally take a step back. Consciously make a decision and state to yourself “I choose not to be offended by this, I choose to simply let it go.”
Need A Little More Help to Let It Go?
From time to time just “choosing” not to be offended may not be enough. If that’s the case, then you can stop and take these simple steps:
- Take a deep breath and locate the upset feelings in your body (for example, in your chest, stomach, neck etc…), then continue to breathe easily and focus on the feelings until they begin to ease or dissipate.
- Then focus in the area of your heart and ask yourself the following questions: (Note: When asking these questions trust and go with whatever quickly and intuitively comes to you – even if it doesn’t initially make sense.)
- “How am I feeling threatened, disrespected or diminished right now?”
- “What new perspective or understanding about this situation can I adopt now in order to see this perceived offense differently and let it go?”
- “Is there any other information or insight that would help me to let go of this completely right now?”
- Take one more slow deep breath in, and as you let it out imagine any remaining thoughts or feelings of offense falling away from you and into the earth.
- Put your attention back on to doing something productive or enjoyable, and go about the rest of your day!
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PS Forgiveness is a direct path to greater freedom and peace of mind as well. Letting go of the mental and emotional burdens of the past is part of taking full responsibility for yourself. Get a copy of my book, The Forgiveness Handbook: A Simple Guide to Freedom of the Mind and Heart, to find out the true meaning, power and possibilities of forgiving yourself and others. Click on the book photo in the right hand side bar now. Or go to The Forgiveness Club site, for additional information and resources and forgiveness and emotional education.