As a general rule, we’re not nice in our family. Snide remarks and brutal honesty prevail, and if you receive a compliment, it’s probably sarcastic (‘you’re a genius’ is one I get pretty frequently).
Being sensitive, this dynamic caused me a lot of angst growing up. Storming off to my room in tears was not uncommon and I still feel the need to warn people before they come over about any harsh words they may hear while visiting.
While I did get hurt often and felt envious of the families where “I love you” was not responded to with an “ew”, I am very appreciative of this idiosyncrasy now.
On a regular basis I hear people talking about being offended, or how they (accidentally) offended others, or are worried they might offend someone. We tread lightly and tiptoe around the feelings and beliefs of others, not wanting to offend someone, or come across as offensive. We live in a culture of offense, where we are fearful of being considered offensive and looking to be offended by someone else.
Having grown up in the family that I did, I am often perplexed at the comments/jokes/media that people find offensive…like you should spend thirty minutes at my house and see how you feel.
The reason I’m now grateful for the tough (and highly offensive) love I received growing up, is that it has made me a lot stronger than I would be otherwise. Being offended easily is a weakness, it makes us a victim.
You made me feel this way. Your comment had this effect on me. My feelings are hurt by what you said.
This mentality causes us to hand over our happiness (and long-term, our well-being) to someone else. We are no longer responsible for how we feel but rather reliant on the words of others.
There is a psychologist who lived in a concentration camp during WWII who talks about this phenomenon (can you think of anything more offensive that what happened to the concentration camp refugees?). What he assures us, is that between someone’s comment and our reaction is choice. We can choose to not allow someone’s comment/joke to offend us. Furthermore, we do so because we live in truth.
If someone says something about you that you don’t like, there are always two options: either it’s true or it’s not. If it is true then you’re upset because you don’t want them to bring it to light or comment on it; if it’s not true you’re upset that they’re saying a false statement about you.
Both of these rationalizations for our feeling offended are understandable. We don’t like it when someone points out a flaw or shortcoming and we also don’t like it when someone says something about us that is not true. However, if we live in truth, the appropriate response isn’t offense, it’s acceptance. Because if the comment is true, then it’s true! And we should be okay with that. When I make cookies and my sibling says ‘these aren’t very good,’ I don’t like it, but I also know that they aren’t that good (if that is the case…I have about a 70% success rate with baking), so them pointing that out isn’t offensive, it’s just a truth…that I don’t like.
But if the comment is untrue, (like when I make cookies that are really good and someone says they’re not) then the fact that they say it shouldn’t bother us. It’s not true, so who cares? What is the purpose of getting upset over something other than reality?
This acceptance of what is true and what is not brings so much freedom. We don’t have to be upset because someone said something that we don’t like or agree with, our emotions aren’t determined by a passing comment or joke.
I used to spend way too much time upset over careless words or jokes I did not find amusing. Even though I am often affected by the words of others or the media I take in, I know better now than to waste time and energy wallowing or allowing anger and resentment to build up inside of me. I can move on knowing and accepting what is true (and what isn’t).
After all, the truth will set you free (from living offended and second guessing everything you say)!