Is Being Offended Serving You?
“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”—Epictetus
How do you react when someone offends you, whether it be intentionally or otherwise? Do you allow it to get the better of you? I don’t wish to embellish this article by advising whether we should react to criticism or not. However, I wish to highlight how we can better deal with criticism instead of being offended. With the rise of readily accessible news and social media nowadays, more and more people are easily offended. While I’m not suggesting the world is lined with good intentions, being easily offended has become the hallmark for activism and social standing. You no doubt value your personal growth and improving your life because you are drawn to this message. Considering this, I want you to examine whether being offended is serving you? Ask yourself whether it enhances your life? Do you feel you belong to something like an important cause?
This is not about making you feel guilty but examining whether being offended is serving you. Could taking offence be a cover up for something else lying beneath the surface? I don’t know and neither will you unless you sit with your thoughts and examine them. For example, I stopped being offended many years ago. It took a great deal of self-examination, but I realised it was not serving me anymore. In fact, it was retarding my growth because I was offended by those whom I didn’t know and whose values and opinions differed to mine. These were people I had never met, yet I was offended by a comment someone wrote in response to an article. It became clear one day when I realised: “Why am I allowing this person’s comment to hurt me?” What followed was a silent voice that responded: “Because you have the seed of that offence within you.” My core self was telling me this individual was mirroring my deepest thoughts about myself. It wasn’t until I healed and transformed these thoughts, I overcame my hurt with others.
Silence The Monkey Mind
“Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.”—Rene Descartes
How about you? Think of a time where you took offence to something, whether recently or in the past? Undoubtedly, family and friends can push our pain buttons because they know our weakest points. They are great teachers insofar as they expose the truthfulness of our thoughts. I use the word teachers because we can learn to overcome our shortcomings through the experiences our family and friends expose us to. What I’m saying is: there are other ways we can respond that doesn’t involve being offended. For example, silence and introspection are ways in which we get to the heart of what is taking place within our psyche. We might journal our thoughts and reactions to see whether they are serving us. There may be a sense of belonging that comes with being offended or aligning our values with moral causes. Whatever you decide, it requires choosing empowering responses aligned with your integrity and authentic self.
As mentioned earlier, being easily offended became a learned response for me. When I looked within me, I discovered the emotions underlying my experiencing were not what I wanted to experience, so I changed my response. It’s about finding peace and maintaining equanimity rather than having our emotional wellbeing hijacked. In these times, there’s a great deal to be offended about and the world will pull us in every direction not of our choosing. Suddenly, we find ourselves caring about issues that really don’t matter to us but seem justified. We need to be purposeful where we direct our attention and not make it an automatic reaction. We ought to examine our thoughts to see whether being offended is serving our personal evolution. As alluded to earlier, silence and self-enquiry are foundational elements to help us deal with the strain of everyday living. We learn to silence the monkey mind which retaliates and responds in anger instead of allowing the emotion to move through us.
With this in mind, is it possible to suspend your judgement the next time you are offended? Instead of reacting, could you allow yourself to interact with what is taking place in your mind-body and allow the emotions to move through you instead of identifying with them? The only way is to try. There may be instances where being offended serves us, however I have yet to come across someone or something who has offended me to the degree I have been angry for hours or days. The more we know ourselves, the more we accept that others aren’t that different to us and we needn’t be offended but turn within to examine the seed of the insult within us. Your call to action in the coming weeks is to look within when you feel offended and examine whether it is serving you? Ask yourself what being offended brings to your life that peace and harmony cannot offer? Journal your thoughts and allow yourself to see through the fog of separation that says they are wrong and you are right. Ultimately, when we’re easily offended, we not only close the door to true understanding but we limit our capacity to evolve in the space of oneness.
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