That which offends you only weakens you. Being offended creates the same destructive energy that offended you in the first place- so transcend your ego and stay in peace. ~Wayne Dyer
As I peruse social media, I can’t help but think we have created a society that is perpetually offended. We’ve created platforms where reasoned, thoughtful debate is sidelined in favor of boycotts, call-outs and manufactured outrage. All of these measures have deepened the divide of us versus them thinking, preventing us from having the important conversations needed at this time. Instead of being offended, can we view our feelings as a message that there is an opportunity for deeper discovery of self and our worldviews? What does it really mean to be offended and can it serve a higher purpose?
When you are offended you unintentionally become a victim.
You are not only consenting to victimization, but you are initiating it. People say stupid things all the time, we have no control over what people say or even their intention. But when we hear or see something that we are offended by, we are moving into victimhood. You are putting another person in charge of your wellbeing. It is a leaking of your personal power.
Personal power is a form of energy that is about much more than mere self-confidence or a measure of our sphere of influence. Personal power is forged within, acquired through a broadened awareness and perception. It is not concerned with value judgments of ourselves in the context of the larger cultural mores or another’s opinion, or their experience of truth. Our personal power is the proper use of our own energy. Every time we feel hurt by the words of another and we lament on it, we give that person and their words, energy. Is there a better way to utilize our energy?
You are not raising the consciousness of the conversation, you are adding to it.
When we get offended we feed the narrative and give it power. How do we ever overcome our challenges by keeping the conversation focused on the problems and the lack? If you look at any of the big social movements they weren’t empowered by a group of people sitting around lamenting over their wounds. And they certainly weren’t trying to control people from them. Movements happen because people took action and inspired others to act. They may have started with conflict, anger or hurt, but the end game was about creating something better. There was a desire to create something new, to move towards something which served to empower their cause. Words are just agreed upon symbols, if we no longer agree upon or give credence to their meaning then they lose their power.
Being offended is a reaction rather than a response
If you were to look deep within, there is probably something that is being triggered when you take offense. This could be a belief or worldview that is being challenged. This reflexive emotion is not necessarily a bad thing, it actually gives you the opportunity for self-discovery and growth. Maybe someone uses a very inappropriate racial slur, and that offends you. Maybe what is being triggered within you, is a deeply held value of social justice. Creating social justice in our world is a fantastic thing, but we won’t accomplish it while coming from the perspective of victimhood. Being offended might be the first response that alerts us of a deeper calling or desire about the world we want to live in. But if we just stay at the level of being offended, we don’t create change within ourselves or our world. An incongruence will remain and often we end up perpetuating that which we are trying to change.
When we live congruently, we are keenly aware of our values and take action to live according to them. Not in an attempt to tear something down, but put our energy into what we want to create. It is hard to be offended while living from such an empowered place. Being offended can serve as an invitation to explore our values and worldview on a deeper level. This, in turn, allows us to figure out how we want to show up in the world. This is an opportunity for personal healing, rather than looking for others to change their behavior or opinions.
Seek Justice, not fairness
There is nothing to be gained from forcing people to be fair or act in a certain way. There is a difference between justice and fairness. In a just world, individuals own their own will, meaning that we have the right to make our own decisions. Fairness, on the other hand, is a subjective opinion on how we think things should be. Do you want to live in a world that supports the free expression and speech of our own will? Or would you choose a world that is subject to a certain individual or group’s beliefs about how things should be? We are not entitled to have our feelings protected, however, we are entitled to freedom of speech.
So next time something offends you, look deep within and ask yourself what is really being triggered? Is there a way I can address this in a more meaningful way than just having hurt feelings? Being empowered and happy is not up to society, it is up to the individual. I’d rather live in a world where we can have open, and honest debate; a society where we listen and use the opinions, and the ideas of others as an invitation to learn more about who we are, and the world we want to live in.