There is an epidemic spreading across the world. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re all carriers of the disease. It’s called Offend-initis, a skin condition whereby the thickness of our skin melts away to the point where everything offends us. Symptoms may include: hurt feelings, indignation, irritability, disappointment, grumpiness and an all-around allergic reaction to anyone who says or does something we don’t like.
Fortunately, there is a cure.
But, before the healing begins, we need to start by acknowledging that there’s a problem in the first place. For many of us, we don’t even know we’re walking around with this virus, but it’s there alright, destroying all the peace of mind cells we have in our body. Being offended doesn’t just hurt our feelings, it compromises our whole “happiness immune system.”
So, go ahead, you can say it. It’s only three words: I get offended.
And don’t worry. You’re not alone. We all do.
In fact, there’s almost nothing we don’t get offended by. We get offended by a roll of the eye or a shake of the head, as easily as we get offended when we’re ignored, picked on, talked about, not talked about, overworked, unappreciated, or taken for granted.
And, that’s not counting all those times in a day when we get offended by life disappointing us. You know what I’m talking about…those times when someone cuts us off on the road, jumps in front of us at the market, doesn’t say thank you when we think they should. We get offended by parents who can’t control their kids in restaurants, friends who don’t invite us to parties, neighbors who refuse to pick up after their dog’s mess.
Take your pick. There’s something for everybody.
Now, you might say being offended is nothing more than a collection of pet peeves—all those little annoyances that get under our skin. And it’s true. Of course, seeing as how the skin is the largest organ in the body, that’s a lot of room for these “pet peeves” to get into our system and thrive. We need to be careful of infection.
It’s time to let the healing begin.
Here is a simple prescription on how to stop being offended — three small pills to help clear up the irritation of life.
Pill #1: Don’t Be Offended By Anything You Can’t Change
This isn’t a pill as much as it’s an awareness we need to swallow. Let’s face facts. We’re not helping the world one bit by being offended. And, yet, we often mistake our indignation for action, thinking that our being offended makes us more empathetic and caring, as if being upset by people who text while driving makes us pillars of the community.
In other words, we try to justify being offended.
I know I get offended at texting drivers—the indignation of someone putting my kids at risk. And while it’s true that it’s dangerous, lets be real about this whole “justifying” business: my stink eye across the freeway isn’t going to save hundreds of lives, anymore than being offended at the guy who lets his dog poop all over someone else’s lawn will do anything to beautify my own.
Being offended without taking action does nothing to make the world a better place. It only raises our blood pressure and makes us agitated.
If we’re really offended by something, we should do something about it. Talk to the person who offended you, deal with the issue, elicit change. And if I really wanted to do something about drivers who text, I should march to City Hall, call my congressman, blog about it, talk to my own kids, rally the troops. Take real action.
But, I don’t, so I stew in my indignation…and stewing does nothing but reduce the quality of my life. But, I can change that. We all can.
We can choose, from this moment forward, to not allow ourselves to expend one ounce of energy on what we can’t change. Rather, let’s change the things we can—starting with our own peace of mind.
Pill #2: Stop Looking For Things To Be Offended By
If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: we find what we look for. And when it comes to being offended, nothing could be more true.
Some days it seems like we’re on the lookout for things to be offended by. We’re waiting for it. It almost becomes a habit and, like any habit, the more we keep at it, the more it becomes an everyday part of our lives.
Fortunately, habits can be broken. If we choose, we can change our perspective. And this isn’t just looking at the world as if the glass is half-full, it’s making a conscious decision to look at our entire life differently.
Instead of always being the victim and looking for what someone is “doing to us,” we can start looking for all the things someone is “doing for us.”
We could thank the neighbor’s dog for fertilizing our lawn, or the slow driver ahead of us for making us stop rushing. We could thank the texting driver for making us put our cell phones down, or the negativity dwellers for making us appreciate our positive attitudes, or the guy who’s always giving us grief for making us treat others nicer.
In fact, we could thank all those individuals who offend us for making us stronger, happier and more content. Do this and the things that once irritated us, will now become our teachers, guiding us toward inner peace. Again, it’s all a matter of perspective, or as Wayne Dyer says,
“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.”
Pill #3: Give Others The Space To Be Themselves
I know this is a big pill to swallow, but the reality is simple: most people aren’t out to get us. They’re not doing things to make us miserable and ruin our day. They’re doing it because they’re living their own life experiences. Yes, that sometimes means they’re inconsiderate, annoying, unconscious, and not living up to our high expectations.
But, guess what, we’re not always living up to other people’s expectations. I’ve certainly offended my share of people. I’ve rolled my eyes, said things I wish I hadn’t, been inconsiderate, unconscious and annoying. And while I’m not proud of it, I do know that I’m a better person today than I was yesterday, in the same way that the person who offended you today may be a better person tomorrow.
The fact is, we all need space to be ourselves—to have good days and bad days, and to not always be at our best. We need the space to change, grow, and evolve, and to do it on our own time.
And the more we adopt this “big picture” attitude, the less demanding we will be of those around us, reducing the likelihood that we will be offended in the first place.
And here’s the bonus: the more space we give for others to be themselves, the more space they’re likely to make for us. I know it’s a tough goal to stretch for, but it’s also one that could change the world. It’s called freedom and it’s a peaceful, energizing, and beautiful thing.
That’s it…three small pills to cure what irritates you.
Of course, it’s not that simple. If you really want to be cured from what offends you, you’ll need to stay on this prescription for the rest of your life.
But, that’s a small price to pay for the freedom to live every moment with the knowledge that your days of being chronically offended are once and forever over.
(Photo credit: Teenager Being Offended via Shutterstock)