I have been struggling lately. As have many of us. The world can seem a frightening, frustrating place. I struggle personally with feeling like I fit in, or that my voice matters. I have insecurities about my value in the lives of people important to me, and if I’m doing enough to help the world and the suffering while I have a relatively privileged life. I struggle with anxiety and am seeing professionals to help me with it. Some days, I have enough spoons to reach out and help others. But many, I don’t have any more energy than to slide through the day and coast until I can fall asleep.
But I’ve been noticing a very frustrating comment popping up around me and on social media.
“People get offended over everything nowadays.”
So let’s start here.
resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.
“she sounded slightly offended”
synonyms:upset, insulted, affronted, aggrieved, displeased, hurt, wounded, disgruntled, put out, annoyed
This definition and it’s synonyms describe a series of feelings, due to what is a perceived insult. That perception is in the eyes of the person feeling the insult, not the person making the comment.
So, while someone making a statement/comment/post/joke can absolutely have innocent intentions, the word offended is an adjective (A word attached to a noun to describe it) specifically attached to the audience of said statement/comment/post/joke. I mention this again, to make it very clear that regardless of original intent, it is the person hearing/seeing it that determines if they are “offended”, or as I prefer to describe it, hurt by something.
“So does that mean I can’t say anything, make any jokes, state my opinions?”
I am so glad you asked, gentle reader.
Of course that is not what I mean. You are free to speak your mind. You are welcome to have an opinion. In most instances, as I try to trust in the general good-intent of humans, you may not even know why you may have inadvertently offended someone.
So I will provide my own analogy.
For many years, my husband and I struggled with infertility. We had four miscarriages and I was in a near-constant raw emotional state. But grief is a strange thing. I tried to keep smiling and moving about my life as usual. Many of our friends and family members would announce pregnancies and show beautiful growing baby bumps. And my heart broke with each one, though I felt happy for them and their joy. In most cases, no one understood how this hurt, because they had only intended to share their joy, their happiness, and gratitude.
I wasn’t offended, but, I was certainly hurting.
I bring up this example, because I now have two beautiful and rambunctious children. Children I wish to share with those I love. I want them to share in my joy and our happiness. But, since I came from the situation before, I now try to choose my words carefully. I try not to make everything I share about them. I try to check in on some of my friends I know are still struggling. I’m not perfect about it, but I am absolutely mindful.
“So if I don’t know if I’m offending someone, how do I say anything anymore?”
Oh, dear reader, let me help. This is the flowchart I have devised for dealing with mindful language.
What it boils down to, in my opinion is this. If, upon reflection, I have hurt someone intentionally or not, am I willing to be present and communicate with them to try and understand why my words or actions hurt them?
If I am so resolute in my conviction that I do not care that I hurt another human being, I have two choices; either accept that I hurt someone and accept the consequences of that, or reexamine my convictions and why I am willing to hurt others to hold on to them.
Simply put, am I willing to be compassionate to others’ experiences though they may not be my own and try to further understanding to avoid causing unnecessary discomfort or pain?
In these tumultuous times, more people are speaking out about things that offend them. At the heart of those words are people are making themselves vulnerable by describing the words and actions that hurt them and diminish their value as a human being. At our source, all humans want to be loved and feel their own worth. They want to be recognized and seen. They want to know they matter. I’ll bet you do too.
That is the center of humanity, try to see the humanity in others and how it reflects back to you. I am willing to bet that if you try, you can learn a lot about others and yourself when you look.
Much love and blessings to you all.