“I’m offended by that!”
And you know what? That’s okay.
There are some things that we really should be offended about…
You should be offended by someone mistreating you.
You should be offended by someone trying to take advantage of or coerce you.
You should be offended by toxic behavior or the mistreatment of others.
That burst of anger and hurt response is your brain telling you that this is a potentially harmful situation that needs to be changed.
Of course, there are caveats.
To be continually offended is to live with a steady stream of anger that will undermine your mental and emotional health.
That anger can cause depression, aggravate anxiety, negatively affect your physical health, and damage relationships.
Few people want to spend their time around angry, offended people all of the time. It’s exhausting for the people that aren’t angry, and most people aren’t going to hang around that for long.
Anger also makes a person blind. And speaking as a formerly angry person, I kept myself angry by feeding myself a diet of angering material through the news I consumed and the people I hung around with.
Some people have a vested interest in keeping people like you and me angry because it makes us useful to their ends.
Anger and offense are easy answers to complex problems. You don’t need to try to understand anyone else when you’re angry. You have a specific enemy, they are wrong, and your anger and offense are justified!
Even when they’re not. Even when you turn out to be wrong.
To live in that kind of anger and offense is to turn over control of yourself, your mind, and your emotions to another.
That other person may be an executive trying to drive ad revenue or a zealot trying to use you as a weapon against their adversaries. Either way, these people do not have your best interests in mind.
How can we avoid that?
1. Research and understand the other side of the argument.
One of the easiest ways to influence people is to tell them what they want to hear.
If you want to be angry and offended, then all the crafter of that message needs to do is give you messages that confirm your anger and offense. That’s as complicated as it gets.
It’s pretty easy to see when someone is doing this when you know what to look for. And what you need to look for is the other side of the argument.
A person who is trying to weaponize your emotions will go hard on that particular emotion while ignoring, bashing, or downplaying the other side of the argument. As an example…
“Purple is the greatest color in the world! It’s so deep and lush! A color that you can easily lose yourself in! Green? Green is garbage! It’s shallow! Only fools like green!”
This type of presentation is a common bad faith argument known as a “reduction to absurdity.”
The person doing the arguing is painting green as a bad color while talking purple up to be the greatest thing ever. It ignores any merits that green has and any flaws that purple has.
The people who are blindly passionate and loyal to purple will jump on this kind of message because it confirms that purple is the best color, even if it’s not.
A speaker or message that is seeking to influence the people that think purple is the best color can play straight into their beliefs and fuel their anger.
On the other hand, if you take the time to learn about the downsides of purple and what the truth is about green, you may find that you have much less to take offense about.
If you walk away from a piece of media feeling a particular emotion, it has most likely been engineered to elicit those kinds of feelings out of you, the consumer.
2. Remember the person behind the statement.
An interesting aspect of people is how our circumstances can shape what we believe and how we interact with the world.
The culture in which a person grows up can lay the groundwork for politics, religious beliefs, and personality traits.
It may also have a negative correlation. The person who grows up in a culture that embraces some wrong may reject it harshly and keep that opinion well into adulthood.
But sometimes it’s not about right and wrong. Sometimes it’s just a difference of opinion in how we think the world works based on the way we’ve experienced it.
You may find yourself offended by a person’s beliefs or opinions because you’ve had two different perspectives.
That person speaking their opinion may be doing their best to be a good person, doing what they think is right from their own experiences.
Consider the character of the person who is speaking what you consider to be offensive. Are they someone who would genuinely try to do harm? Or do they just have a difference in opinion about how to get to a similar result?
Do they have a complete understanding of what it is they are talking about? Perhaps they may even know something that you don’t that would cause you to change your mind!
3. Choose your battles wisely.
Ignorance is a plague on humanity that will never end. It just won’t.
You can have all the education and opportunities in the world for someone to learn, but some people just don’t want to.
They are comfortable in their little niche that they’ve carved out for themselves and don’t want to jeopardize that.
They may also be people who enjoy anger and conflict. Those people exist too. I used to be one of them. It was no big deal to push someone’s buttons to watch them rage over nothing. They weren’t going to convince or correct me because I didn’t care to be corrected.
That is an important distinction. There are an infinite number of battles that need to be fought for the marginalized and correcting some of the ugliness of humanity. But you are only one person in a sea of infinite suffering.
Every time you choose to be offended, choose to accept anger, you are giving away a small piece of your emotional energy. Do that excessively and you will find yourself very burnt out, very quick.
And that’s not what the world needs. It needs people who can meter things out and work in the long run to make things better.
Real change takes time – a long time. If you want to finish that race, you need to be careful about where you spend your limited amount of emotional energy and take time to replenish it.
Choose your battles wisely. Ask yourself if any good will come from taking offense and engaging in conflict.
You’re the one who will have to carry that energy with you afterward. The person you’re conflicting with may very well not care.
Take a deep breath, consider the situation or if any good will come of it, and then choose your action after your consideration.
4. You don’t have to be angry or offended to fight.
Interestingly, people tend to equate their anger with action. It’s not the same thing at all.
The world is in a tough place, and there will always be forces working to make the world better for themselves at the expense of others.
You don’t need to be angry or offended to realize this or fight against it. In fact, it’s better when you’re not because anger blinds. And when you’re blind, you make mistakes that you would not have made if you had taken the time to clear your thoughts and find your balance.
Those mistakes can cost you valuable progress in your personal or professional life, which is not beneficial to anyone.
How does your cause benefit if you burn out and can’t perform at an acceptable level? How can you help if you’re drowning at work or lose your job?
In that scenario, you’re depriving yourself of valuable resources that could meaningfully benefit whatever cause you believe in.
5. Address mental health concerns you might have.
There are plenty of real problems and disgusting attitudes to be genuinely offended by. However, sometimes unaddressed mental health problems may be the cause.
Some people feel things deeply and sharply in a way that other people don’t. Some mental illnesses can cause people to overreact or get overwhelmed by outside stimuli.
If you find that your being offended is preventing you from conducting your life, you should talk to a mental health professional about the situation and ask them for coping skills that can better help you manage your emotional responses.
You do not want to spend your life living in anger, fear, or sadness. You are far more likely to emotionally burn out before things can be meaningfully changed.
Progress is a slow, uphill battle. You must take care of your mind and well-being along the way.
You may also like:
- How To Channel Your Anger And Release It In A Healthy Way
- 7 Simple Steps To Not Let Things Bother You
- The 6 Key Things You Can Do To Find Inner Peace
- 5 Ways To Be Less Emotionally Sensitive
- 8 Emotional Self-Care Strategies: Learn To Take Care Of Yourself Emotionally