In the news a lot lately about how someone is offended by this or that, or we should go out of our way not to offend someone or other for this or that reason. Recently, a restaurant took down a picture of bacon because a Muslim woman said she was offended by the image. Just yesterday there was a snippet about a military veteran who was not allowed to walk his daughter into school because his uniform might offend some of the students (no thought was given to how that might offend the army officer, but that’s a different rant). People are accused of racism or bigotry or any number of things if they disagree with someone who is different from them.
I’ve had several experiences over the last several years where I did something (or didn’t do something) and someone was horribly offended by it. I forgot a meeting and the person running it couldn’t understand why I didn’t prioritize it and really took it personally, assuming it meant I didn’t care about them or what they were trying to accomplish by missing the meeting. I’ve said things that were totally innocuous and had people assume I meant something insulting by it. I never received something someone sent me, and found out later they were horribly offended that I didn’t respond.
Rather than assuming the best, people tend to assume the worst. Rather than assuming, “she has a lot on her plate, maybe she just forgot,” they assume “she slighted me on purpose.” Rather than assuming, “what she said could’ve been meant in a lot of ways, she was probably just trying to be funny,” they assume, “she’s rude and insensitive.” Rather than assuming, “I should ask if she received what I sent,” they assume, “she’s ungrateful.”
I know we all have a tendency to be egocentric and take offense where none is intended, myself included, but here’s the thing:
It’s not about you. The universe does not revolve around you. People are not, as a rule, setting out to attack you. Sure, there are the occasional jerks who are so miserable that they feel the need to make everyone around them miserable as well, but for the most part, people are just trying to get along the best that they can. Not everything is a personal affront.
I posted on my Facebook page awhile ago that after my baby was born, a lady came up to me and said, “I didn’t even know you were expecting, I just thought you were gaining weight.” Now, I could have chosen to be offended by that. It was an insensitive thing to say, a foot-in-mouth, no-filter sort of moment. But I didn’t. I realized that she wasn’t making a comment about my weight, she was registering genuine surprise that she’d been out of the loop for the last nine months. She wasn’t being rude, she was just talking.
So, my point, don’t take everything personally. Don’t assume the worst about people. Don’t get your feelings hurt over every little thing. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they’re being offensive toward you. Whatever someone says or does that is “offensive” probably isn’t. They had a rough day. They didn’t think before they spoke. They didn’t realize something was as important to you as it was. They were so busy trying to make sense of their own lives that they didn’t have the energy to think about yours.
So stop. Stop getting offended. Stop being the person that people have to walk on eggshells around. Stop getting offended that people disagree with you or live differently than you. To quote one of my favorite lines from Buffy, “Get over it. Whatever it is that’s causing the Joan Collins ‘tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it.”
Start assuming the best. Start seeing people as generally good and thoughtful. Start seeing the humor in situations. Start embracing people in all their flaws. Start giving the grace you wish they’d extend to you.