Posted by: 1of10boyz | August 3, 2014

Choosing Not To Be Offended

I am back from writing about what I learned from my experience after having a brain tumor removed. It has been over a month since I last touched on the topics related to this experience. My monkey friend, George, has been quiet during this time. He hasn’t caused me much trouble until lately, but I have had a little bit of a twitch in my left eye. I immediately knew that George is still sitting back their on my back each time I have one of those little spasms. I hope that it is just something to do with having eyes that are too dry but then again, George reminds that it could be more than that.

As I have thought over the past few months about what I learned from George I also remembered that there were other things I wanted to tell my family, my kids and grandkids. I have covered a number of topics to this point that I have learned from having a monkey on my back. It seems as I get further into my list of topics I want to share with you and my family it becomes harder to write about some of them. I think that in most cases that is because these are much more personal to me and to my family. While I think I have learned that being offended is a choice, maybe these ones that I find so hard to write about are the ones that I am still learning.

Are you too sensitive?

Are you too sensitive?

Have ever heard the saying “walking on eggshells”? How about “tread lightly”? These and other sayings are often used to describe a situation where someone recommends caution about what might be said or done. We all know situations and people where it is wise to act with caution. In some cases we may even be the person or situation that could be described by others using these phrases. While it is certainly important to avoid being the person described by others with these phrases, I want to focus more on why it is important to avoid offended or being all sensitive and taking offense when none was warranted.

I mentioned earlier that I have found this topic difficult to write about. I find it hard to admit when I’m wrong. Like many others, I think I am right all the time; that feeling is just part of my personality. That is something that isn’t just my opinion, it has been identified in many situations as I have been coached and mentored. I have had personality tests that have clearly indicated that I have this tendency. It is interesting that after this was confirmed for the 3rd time in my life using 3 different tests I was introduced to George. Life as I knew changed at that point. Who I was for the previous 40 years, how I acted and reacted, was modified; that change came because of a significant life event with a brain tumor and its associated accompaniment of my monkey, George.

I have spent the past 10 years trying to figure out how to overcome or change the way I feel about how others treat me and in return how I treat those I interact with. Believe me it is no small challenge for me; like many of you I believe I had it rough as a kid. I was called names, I was never the center of attention, unless I was getting some much needed discipline, I wasn’t Mr. Popular,  I was bullied and mistreated by many of those around me. I am also responsible for continuing many of those bad actions onto others when I certainly didn’t have to. Some of those actions I would justify then and maybe even a little today as “part of growing up”, “being disciplined”, “getting what I deserved”, “comradery”, “team building”, or “esprit de corps”. Today many of those actions would be called hazing, harassment, or maybe even assault.

For the most part I have forgiven those that treated me in those ways; in most cases those actions were not done to cause offense. There are some that were and I am working even today, 30 or 40 plus years later, to come to a resolution on how I should feel about those experiences. I am sad to admit that I don’t even remember the many of the circumstances for most of those where I may have been the instigator or cause of someone’s pain or sorrow. That is really the worst part about those things for me; not being able to remember to whom I should be apologizing to and to whom I should ask forgiveness from.

I have learned something over the years and this is especially true in business; you will likely forget what it is that someone did but you will never forget how they made you feel. So let me ask you, how does anyone make you do anything? I have been in situations where I was made to do things, in boot camp I was made to do pushups and sit-ups and over/unders; while playing football and basketball I was made to run stairs, ladders, laps, and sprints; but I was never made to do anything that I didn’t really want to do. Some of that personal motivation for doing them was I knew it was part of “the process”. I could have said no at any time and suffered the relating consequence. So why do we feel like someone made us “FEEL” in a certain way? Am I not completely in charge of my emotions?

To be in charge of my emotions requires something that doesn’t come natural; at least it isn’t natural to me. I struggle with being in control of my anger. I struggle with how I feel when I think someone is disrespecting me. I struggle when someone takes offense when none was intended. I have been likely in the past to feel that I know why I feel that way and that the pain that was caused to me by others was intentional. I haven’t really thought much about why I felt that way; it has just felt like I was right so they must be wrong. Yes, I know that sounds like pride doesn’t it. I found that it was much easier to judge the other person and their intentions (and take offense) than to examine myself. You see the “examination of self” would also require that I would have to admit that I was at fault and that is never a comfortable situation.

I have gotten better over that past 10 years of accepting blame for how I feel about something that has happened to me. My character traits will still try and tell me that I am right, but I have tempered that trait with an understanding that has come from trying to accept that I just might not be. I am now trying to look at myself and my heart and admit fault. I think I have made great strides in this area in the past 10 years. I know I certainly try harder at this than I ever thought I might. I think I have gotten better at recognizing that I have the choice of being offended or not being offended.

It was interesting to me to do an internet search for information about “being offended”. I was a little surprised about how many of the top searches actually turned up being from the Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I knew I had heard about it from the pulpit at meetings that I had been in attendance. I thought that it would have been something that others were speaking about as much; if they are they aren’t getting the hit traffic on the internet like the Mormons are. Anyway, one of the articles given was one that I really liked and was actually surprised that it was from 2006 because I remember it so well. Yes, I know that just means I have worked on this problem for a lot longer than I care to admit.

The article was given by Elder David Bednar and can be found in this link. He talks about his experiences with people that were offended and made choices that took them away from the Church. He describes what many of them said to him. He story follows with this statement:

And then I would say something like this. “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you. Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament. You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple. You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.” Many times people would think for a moment and then respond: “I have never thought about it that way.”

The bishop and I would then extend an invitation: “Dear friend, we are here today to counsel you that the time to stop being offended is now. Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Please come back—now.”

How many times do we get the same kind of impact when we take offense? We no longer associate with the “offender” or those around him/her. We end up being the one that suffers and misses out. We become the most affected and impacted, often we are the only one that even remembers what the offense was. The “offender” moves on with life not knowing that offense was taken. The offense cankers our lives and our souls. We impact our own lives and the lives of anyone that will listen to us about it; because we don’t keep our offense to ourselves we want to share it. We want to garner sympathy from others that would say we “deserve” to feel offended. Wouldn’t it just be easier to move on and not take offense when none was intended?

Elder Bednar continues in his discussion with how we can move forward and gain freedom from our “offenders”. He talks about two instances where offense could be taken; one involved a leading member of the LDS Church who was offended by the resolution of a private matter (Thomas Marsh) and the other a very public criticism (Brigham Young). One took offense and he was removed from his position while the other did not take offense.

The capacity to conquer offense may seem beyond our reach. This capability, however, is not reserved for or restricted to prominent leaders in the Church like Brigham Young. The very nature of the Redeemer’s Atonement and the purpose of the restored Church are intended to help us receive precisely this kind of spiritual strength.

I think it is important to remember that we have a choice when it comes to being offended. We can choose to be offended or we can choose not to be offended. It is our choice; choose wisely for that choice may have impacts for generations. Consequences for our choices may be more drastic than the perceived offense when looked at with the perspective of time. Be quick to forgive and slow to anger. Make the choices that will reduce the strife in your life and the lives of others. Remember, A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife. I hope that we will find ways so that hushed tones aren’t required because we are like eggshells to be around.


Next Up:

What have I been up to in China and America for the past few months? Alternate Title, What have I done with the 5 months that my wife has left me to my vices alone in China.


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