How to choose to not be offended
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How to Choose to Not be Offended

In sixth grade, I came home on Valentine’s Day with only a handful of cards. This was long before the day where class lists were circulated to ensure everyone brought a valentine for the entire class. There was one boy in particular, who had been belittling and teasing me for weeks, that I held as the responsible party. Depleted, I felt as if he had turned my whole class against me — I felt alone, hurt, and eventually offended about the way I was treated. 

Looking back, I think I was affected so dramatically because I was so incredibly shy and insecure. My self-esteem was no different than a typical awkward pre-teen; only I figured I was alone in how I felt.

My self-consciousness and inadequacy led me to analyze my interactions with other people. I took so much of what someone would say or do personally as if it were some kind of direct attack. My insecurities led to victimized angst and self-pity over perceived offenses.

Why Do We Get Offended?

Whether it’s self-inflicted or deliberate, we’ve all been offended to some degree or another. A car cuts us off, causing a near-fatal accident, a rude store clerk embarrasses you, a friend betrays a trust, or a relative mindlessly insults or criticizes you. I do not mean to minimize the pain of those who have been physically or mentally abused by another. While all of these burdens are horrific and unimaginable, they do not mean anyone is sentenced to a life of bitterness and revenge.

Those feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, and pain can poison our attitude, outlook, and hope. The idea of not taking offense, forgiving, and giving second chances destroys our victim mentality. As long as we remain the victim, we feel entitled to snap at the clumsy waiter, be impatient with the person in front of you, and criticize anyone trying to help.

The story track you’re replaying right now may have been the worst thing anyone can imagine, but think about this for a minute. 

Do you allow what happened to control how you feel? 

Maybe we are one to let those feelings simmer and stew poisoning us from the inside out. Or are we the type to obsess about the offense over and over like a moth circling a light? However we react, the choice is always ours.

Life appears too short to be spent nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

—Charlotte Brontë

I know it’s possible to let go and move on. I’ve read about examples of it in the stories of Elizabeth Smart and Chris Williams. They each chose to react to life-changing events in a way very different from what is considered normal, but have happier and more productive lives as a result. 

We are led to believe that we should be offended; we deserve revenge or justice. But really, whose voice would tell us to continue to poison our emotional, physical, and spiritual self?

It’s true, stopping the vicious cycle is hard, but I’ve found seven ideas to replace your resentment with healthier and happier thought processes. As with any new habit, there is intentional effort involved, but I know the work leads to a better way of living. I’ve discovered seven ways of thinking to help replace your resentment with healthier and happier habits. 

1. Don’t “Take” Offense

“Take” is defined as a voluntary action to grab, hold, or grip something. It goes back to choice. We can decide not to “take” offense. Let the opportunity to grab on to those feelings pass by you. What someone does or says to you is what Brooke Castillo calls your “circumstance.” What we decided to think and feel about what the other person did is our choice and will ultimately affect the way we respond.  

To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us.”

David A. Bednar

2. The Law of the Garbage Truck

David Pollay discovered this concept. It’s an “It’s them, not me” way of thinking. He teaches how some people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, frustration, anger, and disappointment until they need somewhere to dump it. Sometimes it might be right on you. We may not have a choice in whether we are at the receiving end of these dump trucks, but we do have a choice in how we react. We can choose to smile, wave, and then move on.

3. Don’t Let Pride Cloud Your Perspective

Our natural tendency is to believe our assumptions and way of thinking are correct, but don’t allow your pride to burn bridges just because someone points out an imperfection. Sometimes we are the problem. Their delivery may be a little off, but what a friend is saying might be right on track. This kind of honesty often hurts the most because it is coming from someone we love. Listen to what she is saying and then chalk it up to constructive criticism. Let your love for the person overshadow your pride.

4. The Golden Rule

What about the times you offend someone? Just like the golden rule. We can react to others in the same way we would like to be treated. I feel grateful when someone graciously lets go of my offhand comment or thoughtless remark and chooses to treat me kindly. Having experienced both sides of an offense, wouldn’t you rather be the one who reacts in a gracious, more gentle way?

5. Don’t Let Others Define You

Seeking approval or acceptance from others is a weak foundation for building our worth. When we compare ourselves to others, we are putting our weaknesses up against their strengths. Our self-worth should not be dependent on what someone thinks or says.

6. Forgive and Forget

The most perfect example of forgiving is our Savior. As he hung on the cross, he prayed: “forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34). A word commonly associated with the Atonement of Jesus Christ is grace. 

The main idea of grace is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ…Grace is an enabling power that allows [us] to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after [we] have expended [our] own best efforts.” 

Bible Dictionary 

It is by grace that we can be forgiven of our sins, and it is the same enabling power that helps us forgive, let go, and move on. Accept the past, but leave it where it belongs. If it helps, use a journal to write out your feelings and then work to forget about them. Think of it as dropping the burden at the Saviors feet. Then allow yourself to heal. 

Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive.”

—E.H. Chapin

7. Do It For Your Health

The science behind harboring anger and resentment proves to be unhealthy on so many levels. Increased incidences of depression, unhappiness, and higher mortality rates are just a few of the side effects of refusing to let go of an offense and forgive.

Surgeon, Dr. Dabney Ewin, sees burn patients in the ER who are enraged either with themselves or someone else because of their injuries. He says he knows a skin graft will take if the patient can abandon entitled feelings of revenge and justice. By letting those feelings go, the body can focus on healing. The whole theory of “in with the good and out with the bad” really does help us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Takeaways

So, before heading out into the big, bad world filled with potentially thoughtless people, remember these seven ways of thinking. Life is about learning how we feel about ourselves, how we deal with others, and how we choose to react to them all. It is all within our control. Taking offense is one poison we don’t have to subject ourselves to anymore. Stop being offended and take control. The choice is yours! 

How do you choose to avoid being offended?

How to Choose to Not be Offended 2

Some Additional Ideas

How to Choose to Not be Offended

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20 thoughts on “How to Choose to Not be Offended”

  1. Thank you so much for this article!! I’ve been struggling a lot with an offense that has been difficult for me to forgive, and this helped me feel a lot of peace about letting it go and letting myself drop the animosity I’m currently holding. Thank you so so much

    Also, the article about the trauma surgeon was incredibly interesting! Thank you for choosing to include that in your post!

    1. Hi Elise! Sometimes it IS hard to let those offenses go, but the peace of choosing to leave them behind is so much better! I’m glad you enjoyed the story from the trauma surgeon – I found it fascinating as well.:)

  2. I guess I’ve never thought of feeling hurt as taking offense. I have been hurt, but only a couple of times did I see it as intentional and feel animosity toward the offender. It took me years to forgive that particular person. The offense occurred in fifth grade. He lied about me and used the lie to belittle me, who had never done anything to him, before the whole class at a Christmas party. I was the shy little girl who tried to avoid being the center of attention. He put me in the spotlight by misrepresenting a gift I had given in the class gift exchange and telling everyone in the class how cheap I was. My mom was pregnant, we hadn’t been able to shop, so she had wrapped up 25 pennies — the max gift. The boy had hid 15 of them in his pocket and told everyone there were only ten. It hurt.

    The principal was a Christian man. The teacher sent both of us to his office. He uncovered the truth and made him apologize. I accepted the apology but had not forgiven him in my heart. The next year we moved and I was in a new school. Later we moved to bigger schools, middle and high school, and rarely saw each other.

    About thirty years later I was having pizza in Westwood with my old college roommate who had come home from across the country to visit her father. As we ate, this man came up to the table and introduced himself as that boy. I’m sure he had completely forgotten the whole thing. He said he’d become a police officer and had been divorced a couple of times. I realized then it was time to let go of the grudge and forgive him from my heart, and I did, though I did not invite him to sit with us. The time with my friend was precious and I did not want to dilute it with the presence of any third person. I had been sure to let him know I was married.

    I think God gave us the command to forgive others as he forgave us not only to free us from bitterness and poisoning relationships, but also to give us just a taste of what it costs to forgive so we could begin to comprehend just a bit of what it cost him to forgive us.

    1. Barbara, I think it speaks volumes to the type of person you are to say you’ve not been offended very often in your life!

      What a powerful example of how our hurt can help us realize the cost. Often our forgiving and moving on does not include making the offender a best friend. Just letting go of the burden can be a huge relief!

      Thank you for sharing your story and the lesson you’ve learned from letting go of a grudge!

  3. I enjoyed your post, but … sometimes it’s difficult to know when to stand up for oneself, and when to let it go. If someone says something to me that is hurtful, don’t I have an obligation to our relationship to let them know they have hurt me with their remarks?

    1. Absolutely! But you can do so in a kind and non-offensive way. And once you’ve told them you don’t have to hold on to the offense. Really great point to make! I’m personally one to hold it all in and let it build until I’m the problem is destroying me on the inside. This is where the real problem lies. Thanks for the great comment!

  4. Thinking about those who have forgiven in the face of great adversity is inspiring. Scripture stories are filled with people who forgive (and who don’t) and the consequences of peace from forgiving.

    1. Great point! I love the different examples from the scriptures. It gives us an example to follow or avoid.

    1. I absolutely agree! Just like any kind of thought process – we have to train our brain to know how to react. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I tend to not get offended, I try to think through my emotions and why I’m having them before I lash out on someone else. This is a really great post, i can’t wait to read part 2!

  6. I’m really looking forward to reading more from this series! I have gotten a lot better about harboring resentment and being offended, but I you’re right that it’s hard to do! What I teach my therapy patients is that MOST of the time, your anger is actually an easier feeling to deal with than whatever your true feeling about a situation is– usually guilt, shame, fear, etc. I think offense works the same way.

    1. Identifying and understanding our feelings and how they contribute to our emotions is the first step. I’m so glad you enjoyed! See you tomorrow for part 2!

    1. So easy to overanalyze what the ones we love the most might say to us. How do you avoid taking offense from something your husband might offer as constructive criticism?

    1. Does it make you dizzy? 🙂 I think all of the circling leads me to believe something might change if I come at it from a different direction. The reality is, we can only change our way of thinking about the offense. Learning to let go can be so freeing compared to the circling! Thanks for reading!

  7. You are so right! We have a choice and it’s important to remember that. You have to know your worth for other people to know it. It’s hard…but we are all worthy of love and respect

    1. Our worth is a huge factor! When we believe in who we are and understand our worth it is empowering against the offenses waiting to be taken! Great insight!

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