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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

On the offensive

It is interesting to me the effort some go to in order to be insulted. Why are we so quick to take offense?

Example 1: I watched a number of sports games over the past several weekends; after school activities are in full swing, therefore so are the games. Games of all ages, for all sports, for both genders. All.weekend.long. Most recent weekends it has been soccer and basketball. (Hang in there, this relates to my point, I promise.) I watched numerous children go through the motions that their coaches worked hard to instill in them. Skills abound, and still, sadly, when the ref or ump called a play not in their favor, they immediately start taking offense: why is everyone picking on me? Could it be that the kids didn’t follow rules? That they actually did something wrong? Or just plain messed up? Are we teaching our kids to take offense and try to find someone else to blame instead of owning up to their own possible short-comings, and just try harder the second go round?

Example 2: People say things in jest, and then instead of enjoying the comedic moment, they immediately apologize for hurting others’ feelings. People say things without thinking, and then beat themselves up over possibly having stepped on feelings. People look to take offense in the words of others, rather than simply hearing the words as the opinion of another person, or as a joke, and either agreeing, disagreeing, or disregarding. We are, in fact, allowed to have different opinions, right? We are allowed to find different things amusing, or confusing, or enlightening. We are allowed to have different senses of humors, levels of sarcasm, and curiosities. We can say things meant to be funny, without immediately imagine we did something wrong. Are we all taking ourselves too seriously? Since when are humans perfect? We all have flaws, some more entertaining than others. For example, I have to always think twice before I saw the word ‘cinnamon’. I have no idea why it is a challenging word for me to say. Another example: I literally have to push myself to get into an elevator, and then when I am in it, I will have to practice deep breaths to stay calm. The small space and dim lighting are like a lit match to the tinder of my claustrophobia. I don’t mind at all if you make fun of my obvious near-panic; it might actually help distract me from my completely irrational fear.

Example 3: Two of my boys have been ‘experiencing angst’ recently. Part of it is, I am sure, just peacocking, part of it is this whole ‘fairness’ concept. Life is not fair. It just can’t be. Unless two people have exactly the same experiences, 100% of the time, there will be differences in how they are treated, therein existing ‘unfairness’. We can spend our time and energy searching for how we are treated differently, or we can invest that same time and energy into the experiences themselves. Into living. Into enjoying. My boys are never going to be mistreated, to be sure, but they will also never be treated the same. And, for the record, if they were, that would be unfair. They are different, and my treating them as such is not because I love one more than the other.

Example 4: All around us, people are having their own lives and experiences. Sometimes, these run through our experiences, impacting us. Other times, they are doing things that have nothing to do with us. Regardless, these are THEIR experiences, and they don’t need to consult or check-in with us prior. AND them not doing that is not because they don’t like us, are angry or are indifferent; it just has nothing to do with us. They are just living their lives. I have no idea why this would be insulting to some; we can’t possibly be the center of the world for all people. “She didn’t consider how I might feel about that.” “He didn’t even ask me.” “I felt like a by-stander.” Sometimes, that is what you are. Even if you have experience or have something useful to contribute; it is not about you.

Example 5: Your friend has been texting and texting and emailing ... you don’t want to answer because in reality, you just don’t have time or bandwidth for what she is asking. Ghosting is not okay. Especially if this is someone you know, respect that they can handle your ‘no’ and respond. You are responsible for speaking your own truth, and you are responsible for having compassion for other human beings; you are not, however, responsible for their reaction. Be honest, be upfront, and don’t play games.

Your friend may be having a bad day. The cashier may have a cold or not feel well. You might have made a bad play. Maybe you ARE a crappy driver. And maybe, just maybe, you should look for a reason to take ownership of the situation instead of being offended. Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t about you.

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