“I’m sorry.” Suzie stared into the silence that was thick with hostility. She tried again. “I’m sorry.” Finally, Diana looked at Suzie then looked straight through her as she said, “I don’t believe you.” With that, she turned sharply and walked away, leaving a crestfallen Suzie behind. Diana was exercising her right to be offended.
Diana ran down the stairs and jumped into her car. She was shaking. All the hurt, anger, and bitterness she had experienced from Suzie’s past words and actions welled up in her. It all felt fresh and raw.
“The nerve of her,” Diana thought. “After all that she has done, after all that she has put me through how could she just stand there and say, ‘I’m sorry . . . .’ She is not, and even if she was, I don’t care. I am offended.”
Her phone rang. “Hey. What’s up?”
“Girl,” Diana replied. “I can’t talk to you now. I am so stressed out. I’ll call you back later.”
Like Diana, you have the right to be offended when you are wronged or at least perceive yourself to be wronged, but at what cost?
Here is what I mean.
There are times when being offended is a natural reaction. However, the big question is, what do you do with your offense? Your attitude and perspective will determine whether or not you manage it well or allow it to leave you stressed-out. Here are the key perspectives that will keep you from being stressed out in the face of being offended.
Recognize That Being Offended Is a Part Of Life
Once you are alive, you will be offended. There will be something and someone that causes you at least one of the following emotions — hurt, anger, disgust, embarrassment, and shock. This may be accidental or deliberate. However, when you realize that being offended is a part of life, you will be able to have a balanced response when stuff happens. You will deal with it and not stress over it.
Exercise Without Looking
Of course, you are free to exercise your right to be offended. However, be on guard lest you find yourself looking for reasons to be offended. When you get to this stage, you will find that every little thing offends you.
These little things become big things. It is as if you take on a victim mentality whereby you decide that certain words and actions are offensive to you. You then look for their use and take offense, regardless of the context. This is not helpful. Rather, it is tiring and stressful. Do not go looking. Reasons to be offended will come to you sooner or later.
Step Back Before You Exercise Your Right to Be Offended
It is always good to hit the pause button, step back and take as realistic as a look as possible at the situation that causes offense. This will allow you to get to the root of what is happening. It is similar to the pause you take when you don’t know what to do next. As you step back, consider the following:
- Is/are the person(s) involved deliberately being offensive or are they speaking and acting out of ignorance?
- Is what you are reacting to the real cause of your offense or are you unwittingly reacting because of your frustration over something else?
- Are you exercising your right to be offended from an authentic place or because someone indicated that you should be offended at specific words and/or actions?
Look For the Opportunity When You Exercise Your Right to Be Offended
Opportunities come in wrapped in challenges and offenses. In exercising your right to be offended, do not take up residence in your offended state, lest it leave you stressed-out and bitter. Instead, consider:
- What can you learn about yourself?
- How can you come through this stronger?
- What opportunity is there for conversation that allows the other party to understand what you found offensive, and why?
As long as you are alive, you will be offended. We are imperfect human beings and in our imperfection, we unwittingly hurt each other. Sometimes, this is done deliberately. Often, it is done unwittingly.
In exercising your right to be offended, be sure that you do not go looking for reasons to be offended. Pause and see what is happening. When the offense is real, allow good to come from it. When you do these things, you will exercise your right to be offended without being stressed-out.
Claire Annelise Smith,PhD, aka Dr. Claire, is the founder of Blazing Star Network, a Professional Training and Spiritual Coaching firm. She is also the author of multiple books and publications.
With two decades of executive experience under her belt, Dr. Claire understands the drive that keeps individuals going.
As an author, speaker, spiritual mentor and coach, Dr. Claire helps leaders organize their busy lives to have more time to connect with themselves, the people they love most, and God … without stress and guilt.