There is an epidemic sweeping the globe. And, as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, we are all carriers of the disease. Offend-initis is a skin condition in which the thickness of our skin thins to the point where everything offends us. Hurt feelings, indignation, irritability, disappointment, grumpiness, and an overall allergic reaction to anyone who says or does something we don't like are all possible symptoms.
Fortunately, there is a treatment
But, before we can begin to heal, we must first acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place. Many of us are unaware that we are infected with this virus, but it is present and wreaking havoc on all the peace of mind cells in our bodies. Being offended not only hurts our feelings, but it also jeopardizes our entire “happiness immune system.”
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So, go ahead and say it. It's just three words: I'm offended.
And don't be concerned. You're not by yourself. We are all guilty of it.
In fact, there is almost nothing that does not offend us. We can be offended by a roll of the eye or a shake of the head just as easily as we can be offended by being ignored, picked on, talked about, not talked about, overworked, underappreciated, or taken for granted.
And that doesn't even take into account the number of times we are offended by life's disappointments during the course of a day. You know what I mean…those times when someone cuts us off on the road, jumps in front of us at the store, or doesn't say thank you when we expect them to. We are offended by parents who are unable to control their children in restaurants, friends who refuse to invite us to parties, and neighbors who refuse to clean up after their dog's mess.
Choose your poison. There's something here for everyone
You could argue that being offended is nothing more than a collection of pet peeves—those minor irritants that get under our skin. And it is correct. Of course, given that the skin is the largest organ in the body, there is plenty of room for these “pet peeves” to infiltrate and thrive. We must be cautious of infection.
It's time to start the healing process
Here's a simple prescription for how to stop being offended — three small pills to help alleviate life's annoyances.
Pill #1: Don't Be Offended By What You Can't Change
This isn't so much a pill as it is a realization that we must accept. Let us face the facts. Being offended does nothing to help the world. And yet, we frequently misinterpret our outrage for action, believing that being offended makes us more empathetic and caring, as if being upset by people who text while driving makes us community pillars.
To put it another way, we try to justify being offended.
I know I'm offended by texting drivers—the indignation of someone putting my children in danger. And, while it is true that it is dangerous, let's be honest: my stink eye across the freeway isn't going to save hundreds of lives any more 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 improve the world. It only makes us agitated and raises our blood pressure.
If we are truly offended by something, we should take action. Talk to the person who offended you, resolve the issue, and effect change. And if I really wanted to make a difference against texting drivers, I should march to City Hall, call my congressman, blog about it, talk to my own kids, and rally the troops. Take genuine action.
But I don't, so I stew in my rage…
And stewing only serves to lower the quality of my life. But I have the power to change that. We can all do it.
We can choose not to waste any of our energy on things we can't change from now on. Rather, let us change what we can, beginning with our own peace of mind.
Stop looking for things to be offended by
If it has been said once, it has been said a thousand times: we find what we seek. And nothing could be more true when it comes to being offended.
On some days, it appears that we are on the lookout for things to offend us. We're looking forward to it. It almost becomes a habit, and like any habit, the more we practice it, the more it becomes a part of our daily lives.
Habits, thankfully, can be broken. We have the ability to shift our perspective if we so desire. And this isn't just looking at the world with a half-empty glass; it's making a conscious decision to look at our entire life differently.
Instead of always being the victim and focusing on what someone is “doing to us,” we can shift our focus to all the things someone is “doing for us.”
We could thank the neighbor's dog for fertilizing our lawn or the slow driver in front of us for forcing us to slow down. We could thank the texting driver for making us put down our phones, the negativity dwellers for making us appreciate our positive attitudes, or the guy who always gives us grief for making us treat others better.
In fact, we could thank everyone who has offended us for making us stronger, happier, and more content. Do this, and the things that used to irritate us will become our teachers, guiding us to inner peace.
(Pill #3)Give Others Space to Be Theirselves
I know it's a difficult pill to swallow, but the truth is simple: most people aren't out to get us. They are not attempting to make us unhappy or ruin our day. They do it because they are going through their own life experiences. Yes, they can be inconsiderate, annoying, unconscious, and fail to live up to our high expectations at times.
But, guess what? We don't always live up to the expectations of others. I've certainly offended a few people. I've rolled my eyes, said things I wish I hadn't, been careless, unconscious, and obnoxious. And, while I'm not proud of it, I know I'm a better person today than I was yesterday, just as the person who offended you today may be a better person tomorrow.
The truth is that we all require space to be ourselves—to have good and bad days, and to not always be at our best. We require the freedom to change, grow, and evolve on our own terms.
And the more we adopt this “big picture” perspective, the less demanding we will be of those around us, lowering the likelihood of being offended in the first place.
And here's the added bonus: the more room we give others to be themselves, the more room they're likely to give us. I know it's a lofty goal to strive for, but it has the potential to change the world. It's called freedom, and it's a beautiful, peaceful, and energizing thing.
Three small pills to alleviate your annoyances
Of course, it's not that easy. If you truly want to be free of what offends you, you must follow this prescription for the rest of your life.
But that is a small price to pay for the freedom to live every moment knowing that your days of being chronically offended are over.
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