Several weeks ago, in an email, I attempted to encourage management to partake in my mindfulness training program. Unfortunately a small group of managers took this personally and became offended. At first I did not understand what all the noise was about, thinking to myself: "How can you possibly be offended by this?"
Today I bumped into one of the members of this group. This person was still very bitter about what I had written and brushed me fairly quickly. Even though I apologized for any offence that was felt, it seemed that there was a deep resentment towards me.
This has me now thinking about why folks become offended. It starts with the ego. When one operates from an ego perspective, one feels good when a compliment comes their way:
You are doing a good job.
You look great today.
You are very smart.
I like what you are wearing.
Oh how wonderful. The ego is pumped up and life is good. But if someone tells you things you don't like for example:
Your work is not up to scratch.
You look unhealthy today.
You are dumb.
That shirt doesn't match your pants.
Terrible words come to your ears and now the ego suffers a blow and life sucks. One may become angry and resentful towards the offender as in my case. one may even want to seek revenge.
So how can we stop this from happening? How do we stop ourselves from feeling awesome when good kind words come and terrible when bad unkind words come? I learnt this phrase many years ago.
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness. What a mind of calmness and clarity does is to increase that space for us."
Man's search For Meaning - Viktor Frankl
In my past I was driven by my ego. Fancy cars, flash apartments, expensive restaurants, and plenty of toys. I wanted to look great so people would admire me. I wanted to be the best looking and smartest in the room. I wanted to be right all the time and if I wasn't then I had to justify my existence. I was always reacting to my environment, my thoughts and my feelings mostly without any logical brain thinking. Always offended, always angry, always resentful when things didn't go my way.
But then I was introduced to meditation. Through learning a technique called Sensations meditation I was able to notice sensations throughout my body. When unpleasant sensations would arise, I would observe the unpleasantness but not react to it. Using this process I was able to draw out my responses to the unpleasant sensations, increasing the space in between my stimulus or sensation and my response to it. I was able to stop, evaluate the stimulus, accept it, or choose a more positive response.
In time and with practice I was able to no longer react to what was going on internally or externally. What people thought of me mattered less. I became no longer immobilized by what one said or did. Even though I am not ego-less, I have learnt to not react to anything someone says or does. If somebody says "Adrian, you are Stupid!" I will first stop, and evaluate what was said. I will then check with my internal values system. My values system will tell me that I am not stupid but in fact quiet intelligent. Then I will disregard what was said, understanding that this person has a long way to go on their journey of self-awareness. I may or may not say something to this person but I no longer need to justify my intelligence. The opinion of others does not validate who I am. My self-worth is not from others directed, but is inner directed. Therefore being offended isn't an option.
So let your ego be. When somebody belittles you, or says something which could be hurtful, stop, evaluate what was said with your internal values system, then either accept what is, knowing that it is an untruth, or respond in a calm positive way. If there is some truth in the matter then maybe a correction of oneself is necessary but being offended is a choice and you have the power to decide not to be. I can help you along this path if you choose to no long be offended in your life.
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