This morning, I was sipping my coffee and reading a Facebook post by a good friend. It was humorous and I was just about to click “like” when I read the very last line. And it offended me.
My brain quickly shifted to my amygdala and my fight or flight instincts kicked in. I wanted to lash out. In fact, I did comment on her post-ignoring all the parts I thought were funny and focused only on the one sentence that offended me. About a half hour later, once I had returned to full brain function, I deleted my comment. In the interim, I thought about the offense. It wasn’t directly pointed at me, yet I had taken it very personally. Why, I wondered?
Why had that, seemingly innocent comment, affected me so greatly? In fact, if I let it, it had the power to destroy my entire day. In my mind, I had already withdrawn my friendship from her, back to a safe distance where she couldn’t hurt me, and had foreseen my future interactions with her in a very different way. And she was completely unaware. This wasn’t right. This is not how I want to pick and choose my friends, based on their complete and utter agreement with me. I wanted to understand why I was feeling the way I was and how I could prevent myself from feeling this way in the future.
First, I recognized that I became offended because what she said made me feel that she didn’t honor my beliefs. Why should that hurt my feelings? Don’t I feel strongly enough about my own convictions that I don’t need anyone else’s validation?
Second, the instant I felt offended, I had given her all my power. I had given her words the power to offend me and that made me feel powerless.
Third, the moment I felt offended, my focus shifted from her and her story to me. I was instantly self-centered and I don’t want to live a selfish life.
And lastly, I play to an audience of ONE. What other people believe, think, or say should not matter. Only what my creator thinks of me matters. When I start to concern myself with what other people think of me, I can expend a great deal of my precious energy on something I cannot control.
I think of all these pink pussy-hat wearing people protesting our President because they are offended by him. What a waste of energy. What a waste of time. What a way to give away your power.
Want to live a happy, meaningful, productive life? Here’s a couple of suggestions:
- Believe what you believe without feeling the need for external validation
- Let others believe what they believe without making them feel wrong
- Remember who’s opinion really counts
- Use your time and talents lifting others up
As the Bible says: “Do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).