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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 June 3, 2020

    19 Definitions Of Success You Should Never Ignore

    19 Definitions Of Success You Should Never Ignore

    What is success?

    Is it wealth? Is it happiness? Is it fame?

    The late Zig Ziglar was one of the most respected modern day experts on success, motivation, and leading a balanced life. In his book Born to Win!, he argues that success cannot be defined in one sentence, but instead it is comprised of many things. One could argue that the definition depends on the individual and that one size does not fit all[1].

    Here are 19 different definitions of success. Not all of these will resonate with you, but chances are at least a few of them will. Use these or find inspiration here to create your own definition of success that can be applied to your unique life.

    1. Success is always doing your best.

    Success can be achieved when you try your best in all aspects of everything you do, even if that doesn’t lead to big results. If you’ve done your best, you should feel proud of your efforts.

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    2. Success is properly setting concrete goals.

    Be realistic and concrete when setting goals. Success does not come from setting abstract goals. If you know where you’re heading, that is a success in itself, even if you don’t ultimately arrive to the planned destination.

    3. Success is having a place to call home.

    Home is where your heart soars. You are always successful when you can call a place home. Home doesn’t have to be a specific structure. It can be a country, a city, or even a person. If you have a place you feel comfortable and safe, you’re already achieving something great.

    4. Success is understanding the difference between need and want.

    If you can meet your monthly obligations and fulfill your basic needs, you are successful. Being able to identify when you absolutely need something and when you can do without it often leads to financial stability and is a great way to succeed.

    5. Success is believing you can.

    If you believe you can, you will succeed. Self-belief doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so if you’re able to tell yourself that you can achieve the goals in your plans, you’re doing great.

    6. Success is remembering to balance work with passion.

    Work without passion creates undue stress and empty achievements. Focus on what excites you. If you’re happy at your job, that’s great. However, even if you aren’t, you can balance your formal job with hobbies or volunteer work you’re passionate about.

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    7. Success is taking care of your needs.

    Remember to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Self-care is essential if you want to have any meaningful impact on the world around you.

    8. Success is learning that you sometimes have to say no.

    Success only comes with a balanced life. Part of balance is learning to say no. Saying no doesn’t mean you are selfish; it simply means you have priorities and know what you need to give your attention to at any given time.

    9. Success is knowing your life is filled with abundance.

    Love, health, friends, family…life is filled with abundance. Recognizing this is an important step to feeling grateful for all life has given you. If you can feel this, you are already experiencing success.

    10. Success is understanding you cannot keep what you don’t give away.

    You will only succeed if you help others succeed. Learning to give instead of always take is part of creating a world we all want to live in. When you help others, you will also create an environment where others want to help you.

    11. Success is overcoming fear.

    Conquering a fear makes you feel invincible. Even if it’s confronting just one small fear each week, that is certainly something to feel proud of. The bigger fears will take more time, but any work you do to overcome fear will lead to success.

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    12. Success is learning something new each day.

    Successful people understand that learning never stops. Take time each day to converse with someone with opposing views, read an interesting article on a topic you know little about, or watch a TED talk on new research. It doesn’t take long to learn, so get started now.

    13. Success is learning that losing a few battles can help you win a war.

    Successful people choose their battles wisely. When you know which battles will ultimately help you achieve your goals, you will be successful.

    14. Success is loving and being loved back.

    Opening your heart to others is difficult and can produce fear. Having the courage to love and accept love from others is a step toward a fulfilling life and great success.

    15. Success is standing your ground when you believe in something.

    Successful people never give up on things they believe with all their heart. You may hold views that many people disagree with, but if you’ve done your research and know that it’s the right belief for you, you shouldn’t let it go without a fight.

    16. Success is not giving up.

    Perseverance creates grit, and grit achieves success. Even if it takes years to achieve a goal, persisting is key if you want success.

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    17. Success is celebrating small victories.

    Anytime a goal is reached or an obstacle is overcome, take time to celebrate, even if it’s something small. All goals require smaller objectives to be achieved first, so each time you complete one, take time to appreciate the work you put into it.

    18. Success is never letting a disability hold you back.

    Disabilities do not define a person’s success. The body and mind will compensate. Just because you can’t do absolutely everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something. Do what your body and mind allow and always push yourself. That is true success.

    19. Success is understanding that you control your destiny.

    Your destiny is controlled by you and you alone. Take responsibility for your actions and their consequences and you’ll find that you naturally become more successful.

    The Bottom Line

    Success can be defined in many ways. If you are experiencing happiness, love, or adventure in this moment, you’ve already found success. Keep it up.

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    Featured photo credit: Dino Reichmuth via unsplash.com

    Reference

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