Today I was reading an online profile for a woman that spoke of her 22 year old marriage ending and her desire to marry again. Now, those that know me understand that I am a very curious person so I sent her a question “What happened that ended a 30 year relationship?”. She had said they were together 30 years. I asked this because I love hearing stories and I question everything around me.
What happened next lead me to write my thoughts of the day. She answered me right away saying that she ended the relationship because, while he was a great husband and provider, he was a terrible husband and she deserves to get what she gave because she was a wonderful wife.
Of course this response begged me to ask a follow up question. I asked “So you see the relationship ending as all his fault?” You would have thought I asked her if she raped little children. I got back message after message of how rude I was and how I would never ask such a question face to face. Shortly that after she reverted to calling me an ass and a few other choice things. No, I did not take the bait. I simply thanked her for her responses and moved on (had to block her after she called me an ass etc as I see no reason to go there in any conversation)
I say all this because I want to point out what should be obvious to anyone. You choose what to take offense to. Offense is not given, it’s taken. What happened today is a perfect example of it. This woman thought nothing of sharing her story with me initially right up until she didn’t like my second question. The question itself was directly related to what she told me and she could have easily just came back and said “yes, that is the way I see it” or “no, I am sure I was no saint”. However, she chose to believe that I had no right to ask her that question. She also told me that she thinks I felt entitled to an answer. In fact, she wrote about 5 paragraphs telling me all about why I asked her the second question and why that makes me an asshole.
A perfect example of someone choosing to make themselves upset. She chose to take offense and thus cause herself emotional disturbance. She could have also chosen to just answer the question as she had my first question.
Why choose to take offense? Why choose to see yourself as a victim? Why set yourself up to be emotionally disturbed when you can just as easily choose not to?
As a further example. I chose not to take offense to her calling me multiple names even though her intent was clearly to try to cause emotional damage with her words. I chose instead to see her lashing out at me as her issue, not mine. Her issue really wasn’t about what I asked her. It was most likely her insecurities about her failed marriage. I understand it’s a tough place to be at, and had she bothered to talk with me more, I would have told her that.
We have become a society that wants to take offense. Many thrive on the attention they receive from others when they see them as a victim. It’s created a world of emotional fragility. We are teaching people that it’s quite okay to make ourselves emotionally disturbed and to blame others for this. Clearly, other’s words cannot cause you disturbance. It’s what you tell yourself about those words that causes your disturbance.
For example, if I walked up to you and shouted very meanly that “you are blue and I hate the color blue!”, you are not very likely to react to it other than to think I was nuts. You’d not take offense to my words, but instead you might feel pity that I am unhinged.
However, if I walked up and called you fat, and you see yourself as needing to lose a few pounds, you are likely to have these self-defeating beliefs; “how dare he say that to me! “Who the hell does he think he is!” or “I deserve to be spoken to with respect!” and “Someone telling me that is intolerable! No one has the right to do that!”. Those thoughts are likely to lead to anger, sadness, anxiety and a host of other emotions.
Why do to this to yourself? Your anger isn’t going to make that person change their minds. It isn’t going to stop the next person from saying something you don’t like or agree with. In fact your emotions are likely not going to effect the other person what-so-ever. You could just as easily said to yourself “Well he seems to have some issues. I best steer clear of him in the future.” or “He’s entitled to his opinion but I’m not going to let his opinion bother me” and “Ah well, someone got out on the wrong side of the bed today.” None of those statements are likely to get you very worked up.
As I have mentioned before. You cannot control what others do or say and there is no cosmic law that says that people must not tell you things you dislike or make you uncomfortable. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to keep you happy or calm. It’s your responsibility. No one can make you upset but you. Take responsibility for yourself and stop blaming others for you taking offense.