In sixth grade, I came home on Valentine’s Day with only a handful of cards. This was long before the day where class lists were circulated to ensure everyone brought a valentine for the entire class. There was one boy in particular, who had been belittling and teasing me for weeks, that I held as the responsible party. Depleted, I felt as if he had turned my whole class against me — I felt alone, hurt, and eventually offended about the way I was treated.
Looking back, I think I was affected so dramatically because I was so incredibly shy and insecure. My self-esteem was no different than a typical awkward pre-teen; only I figured I was alone in how I felt.
My self-consciousness and inadequacy led me to analyze my interactions with other people. I took so much of what someone would say or do personally as if it were some kind of direct attack. My insecurities led to victimized angst and self-pity over perceived offenses.
Why Do We Get Offended?
Whether it’s self-inflicted or deliberate, we’ve all been offended to some degree or another. A car cuts us off, causing a near-fatal accident, a rude store clerk embarrasses you, a friend betrays a trust, or a relative mindlessly insults or criticizes you. I do not mean to minimize the pain of those who have been physically or mentally abused by another. While all of these burdens are horrific and unimaginable, they do not mean anyone is sentenced to a life of bitterness and revenge.
Those feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, and pain can poison our attitude, outlook, and hope. The idea of not taking offense, forgiving, and giving second chances destroys our victim mentality. As long as we remain the victim, we feel entitled to snap at the clumsy waiter, be impatient with the person in front of you, and criticize anyone trying to help.
The story track you’re replaying right now may have been the worst thing anyone can imagine, but think about this for a minute.
Do you allow what happened to control how you feel?
Maybe we are one to let those feelings simmer and stew poisoning us from the inside out. Or are we the type to obsess about the offense over and over like a moth circling a light? However we react, the choice is always ours.
Life appears too short to be spent nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” — Charlotte Brontë
I know it’s possible to let go and move on. I’ve read about examples of it in the stories of Elizabeth Smart and Chris Williams. They each chose to react to life-changing events in a way very different from what is considered normal, but have happier and more productive lives as a result.
We are led to believe that we should be offended; we deserve revenge or justice. But really, whose voice would tell us to continue to poison our emotional, physical, and spiritual self?
It’s true, stopping the vicious cycle is hard, but I’ve found seven ideas to replace your resentment with healthier and happier thought processes. As with any new habit, there is intentional effort involved, but I know the work leads to a better way of living. I’ve discovered seven ways of thinking to help replace your resentment with healthier and happier habits.
1. Don’t “Take” Offense
“Take” is defined as a voluntary action to grab, hold, or grip something. It goes back to choice. We can decide not to “take” offense. Let the opportunity to grab on to those feelings pass by you. What someone does or says to you is what Brooke Castillo calls your “circumstance.” What we decided to think and feel about what the other person did is our choice and will ultimately affect the way we respond.
To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us.” — David A. Bednar
2. The Law of the Garbage Truck
David Pollay discovered this concept. It’s an “It’s them, not me” way of thinking. He teaches how some people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, frustration, anger, and disappointment until they need somewhere to dump it. Sometimes it might be right on you. We may not have a choice in whether we are at the receiving end of these dump trucks, but we do have a choice in how we react. We can choose to smile, wave, and then move on.
3. Don’t Let Pride Cloud Your Perspective
Our natural tendency is to believe our assumptions and way of thinking are correct but don’t allow your pride to burn bridges just because someone points out an imperfection. Sometimes we are the problem. Their delivery may be a little off, but what a friend is saying might be right on track. This kind of honesty often hurts the most because it is coming from someone we love. Listen to what she is saying and then chalk it up to constructive criticism. Let your love for the person overshadow your pride.
4. The Golden Rule
What about the times you offend someone? Just like the golden rule. We can react to others in the same way we would like to be treated. I feel grateful when someone graciously lets go of my offhand comment or thoughtless remark and chooses to treat me kindly. Having experienced both sides of an offense, wouldn’t you rather be the one who reacts in a gracious, more gentle way?
5. Don’t Let Others Define You
Seeking approval or acceptance from others is a weak foundation for building your worth. When we compare ourselves to others, we are putting our weaknesses up against their strengths. Our self-worth should not be dependent on what someone thinks or says.
6. Forgive and Forget
The most perfect example of forgiving is our Savior. As he hung on the cross, he prayed: “forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34). A word commonly associated with the Atonement of Jesus Christ is grace.
The main idea of grace is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ…Grace is an enabling power that allows [us] to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after [we] have expended [our] own best efforts.” Bible Dictionary
It is by grace that we can be forgiven of our sins, and it is the same enabling power that helps us forgive, let go, and move on. Accept the past, but leave it where it belongs. If it helps, use a journal to write out your feelings and then work to forget about them. Think of it as dropping the burden at the Saviors feet. Then allow yourself to heal.
Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive.” — E.H. Chapin
7. Do It For Your Health
The science behind harboring anger and resentment proves to be unhealthy on so many levels. Increased incidences of depression, unhappiness, and higher mortality rates are just a few of the side effects of refusing to let go of an offense and forgive.
Surgeon, Dr. Dabney Ewin, sees burn patients in the ER who are enraged either with themselves or someone else because of their injuries. He says he knows a skin graft will take if the patient can abandon entitled feelings of revenge and justice. By letting those feelings go, the body can focus on healing. The whole theory of “in with the good and out with the bad” really does help us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
So, before heading out into the big, bad world filled with potentially thoughtless people, remember these seven ways of thinking. Life is about learning how we feel about ourselves, how we deal with others, and how we choose to react to them all. It is all within our control. Taking offense is one poison we don’t have to subject ourselves to anymore. Stop being offended and take control. The choice is yours!