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How to Be Offended

How to Be Offended

How to Be Offended

    I teach things that many find offensive. Whether it’s articles containing racist language in my “Gender, Race, and Class” course or descriptions of oral insemination as part of the Sembia male’s coming-of-age rituals in my anthropology course, I know that some students are going to be offended, sometimes deeply.

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    Over the years, I’ve come to view offense as a particularly useful state of being – but only when the offense one feels is used properly. Most people view being offended as an excuse for shutting down, even going (you guessed it) on the offensive. They refuse to be party to whatever offensive material is being presented to them, whether it’s someone making a sexist joke or a politician’s attack ad.

    Obviously I can’t have students shutting down – or worse, feeling so put upon that they lash out at me or their fellow students. My classroom is, after all, a learning environment. But being offended is one of the key parts of the learning process. It is through taking offense that we discover the limits of our own knowledge, understanding, or compassion, and therefore it is at the point of offense that we have the greatest potential to grow as people.

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    Consider the kinds of situations that make us feel offended. We take offense when:

    • We are confronted with situations radically different from those we’re used to.
    • We experience situations that conflict strongly with our own values.
    • Our belief systems are challenged or dismissed as inadequate.
    • We are labeled or otherwise treated in ways that are inconsistent with our self-image.

    All of these situations can offer us an opportunity to grow as a person, whether by learning about value systems or ways of living that differ from your own (and which sometimes offer a more efficient, more fulfilling, or simply more reasonable way of doing things), or by increasing our understanding of other people (offering the opportunity, perhaps, to resolve conflicts before they become intractable), or simply by exposing the gap between the way others see us and the way we see ourselves (which can be eye-opening indeed).

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    This can only happen, though, when we recognize offense for what it is – our mind’s way of processing unfamiliar experience. We have a whole set of mental standards that our minds are always comparing new experiences against to guide our actions and reactions; when no “entry” exists that we can categorize some situation into, offense kicks in – “this is wrong,” it says.

    At that moment, we can act in ways that prevent growth – attacking someone, condemning them, walking away, or becoming defensive – or we can use that offense as a trigger to kick us into “understanding” mode. Try thinking about these points next time you’re offended:

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    • Offense is not injury. The most important step to keeping a level head in the face of serious offense is to remember that just because something offends you doesn’t mean that it hurts you in any way. Be careful to sort out your immediate, emotional response from the actual practical effect of whatever offensive situation you’re confronting – most of the time, you’ll find your life can go on just fine regardless of this offensive thing.
    • People aren’t stupid. For the most part, people do things for reasons that, at least at the time, seem like good ones. And when they have the weight of tradition behind them, they’re usually right – societies that do things that are actually and truly wrong tend to be extinct. No matter how difficult it is to accept, you have to acknowledge that many practices that seem utterly impractical and stupid have endured for hundreds or even thousands of years without killing, maiming, or traumatizing the people who practice them.
    • There’s more than one way to skin a cat. The way you do things will always seem like the right, best, and only way to do it – but it’s not. Try to recognize the value in the way other people do things – often you’ll find that, as odd and offensive as it might seem at first, it actually manages to accomplish the same ends as your “right” way of doing things.
    • You’re pretty weird yourself. Never forget that to an outsider, everyone seems weird. We are always exactly as foreign to others as they are to us. Try to look at some of your practices from the outside and see just how weird you really are.
    • Clarify, clarify, clarify. Since offense usually arises at the point of misunderstanding between two people, cultures, or social contexts, dampen your moral outrage for a second to ask some questions. Although asking a question or two might seem easy, in my observations it takes a great deal of courage to ask even the simplest questions – we all want to protect our self-identity by refusing to look ignorant, vulnerable, or unprepared. But of course, we often are ignorant, vulnerable, or unprepared – and sometimes all three. Make sure you actually know what’s going on!
    • Those shoes are tight. You know the saying “Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes”? Well, it’s one of those sayings that are actually pretty true. Try to see things from other people’s viewpoints – and often enough, the offense just melts away.

    Of course, there are situations where immediate action is necessary, as for instance when people are being injured. But a lot of us end up with a “think first, justify later” attitude that causes more conflicts than it solves. Welcoming offense as an opportunity rather than a problem is a step towards reducing the conflict around you – by any measure, an entirely non-offensive thing!

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    Last Updated on July 27, 2020

    7 Ways to Make Life Changing Decisions

    7 Ways to Make Life Changing Decisions

    Most people don’t know the profound effects of making life decisions. Often times, we go through life oblivious to what thoughts we are thinking and what actions we are taking. Every single decision we make in our days shapes our current reality. It shapes who we are as a person because we habitually follow through with the decisions we make without even realizing it.

    If you’re unhappy with the results in your life right now, making the effort to changing your decisions starting today will be the key to creating the person you want to be and the life you want to have in the future.

    Let’s talk about the 7 ways you can go about making life changing decisions.

    1. Realize the Power of Decision Making

    Before you start making a decision, you have to understand what a decision does.

    Any decision that you make causes a chain of events to happen. When you decide to pick up a cigarette to smoke it, that decision might result in you picking up another one later on to get that same high feeling. After a day, you may have gone through a pack without knowing it. But if you decide not to smoke that first cigarette and make a decision every five minutes to focus your attention somewhere else when you get that craving, after doing this for a week, your cravings will eventually subside and you will become smoke-free.

    But it comes down to making that very first decision of deciding whether or not to pick up that cigarette.

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    2. Go with Your Gut

    Often times, we take too much time to make a decision because we’re afraid of what’s going to happen. As a result of this, we go through things like careful planning, deep analysis, and pros and cons before deciding. This is a very time consuming process.

    Instead, learn to trust your gut instinct. For the most part, your first instinct is usually the one that is correct or the one that you truly wanted to go with.

    Even if you end up making a mistake, going with your gut still makes you a more confident decision maker compared to someone who takes all day to decide.

    3. Carry Your Decision Out

    When you make a decision, act on it. Commit to making a real decision.

    What’s a real decision? It’s when you decide on something, and that decision is carried out through action. It’s pointless to make a decision and have it played out in your head, but not doing anything about it. That’s the same as not making a decision at all.

    If you want to make real changes in life, you have to make it a habit to apply action with your decision until it’s completed. By going through this so many times, you will feel more confident with accomplishing the next decision that you have in mind.

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    4. Tell Others About Your Decisions

    There’s something about telling other people what we’re going to do that makes us follow through.

    For example, for the longest time, I’ve been trying to become an early riser. Whenever I tried to use my own willpower, waking up early without falling back asleep felt impossible. So what I did was I went to a forum and made the decision to tell people that I would wake up at 6 AM and stay up. Within two days, I was able to accomplish doing this because I felt a moral obligation to follow through with my words even though I failed the first time.

    Did people care? Probably not, but just the fact that there might be someone else out there seeing if you’re telling the truth will give you enough motivation to following through with your decision.

    5. Learn from Your Past Decisions

    Even after I failed to follow through my decision the first time when I told people I was going to wake up early and stay up, I didn’t give up. I basically asked myself, “What can I do this time to make it work tomorrow?”

    The truth is, you are going to mess up at times when it comes to making decisions. Instead of beating yourself up over it, learn something from it.

    Ask yourself, what was good about the decision I made? What was bad about it? What can I learn from it so I can make a better decision next time?

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    Remember, don’t put so much emphasis focusing on short term effects; instead focus on the long term effects.

    6. Maintain a Flexible Approach

    I know this might sound counter-intuitive, but making a decision doesn’t mean that you can’t be open to other options.

    For example, let’s say you made the decision to lose ten pounds by next month through cardio. If something comes up, you don’t have to just do cardio. You can be open to losing weight through different methods of dieting as long as it helps you reach your goal in the end.

    Don’t be stubborn to seek out only one way of making a decision. Embrace any new knowledge that brings you closer to accomplishing your initial decision.

    7. Have Fun Making Decisions

    Finally, enjoy the process. I know decision-making might not be the most fun thing world to do, but when you do it often, it becomes a game of opportunity.

    You’ll learn a lot about yourself on the way, you’ll feel and become a lot more confident when you’re with yourself and around others, and making decisions will just become a lot easier after you do it so often that you won’t even think about it.

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    Anything you decide to do from this point on can have a profound effect later on. Opportunities are always waiting for you. Examine the decisions that you currently have in the day.

    Are there any that can be changed to improve your life in some way? Are there any decisions that you can make today that can create a better tomorrow?

    Final Thoughts

    Some decisions in life are harder to make, but with these 7 pieces of advice, you can trust yourself more even when you’re making some of the most important decisions.

    Making a decision is the only way to move forward. So remember, any decision is better than none at all.

    More Tips for Making Better Decisions

    Featured photo credit: Justin Luebke via unsplash.com

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