What I’m saying applies to everyone. So I’ll use myself as an example here…. just in case anyone might be offended.
Moments of taking offense are moments when I am highly affected by the way I’m treated — when I don’t like the way someone else does something, says something, handles something, responds to something, and I don’t feel respected in the process. In those moments I take offense. I see an opportunity to claim my right to be… well, righteous (or perhaps self-righteous).
I’ve worked hard to cultivate my self-image. I believe I have earned my standing according to the unwritten rules of culture and decorum. Therefore I have the right to be treated the way I expect. When I take offense, I’m making a citizen’s arrest, and then I try and convict someone who isn’t following the rules, and thus offending my ego. It’s my right… right?. After all, what’s the point of cultivating a self-image when it can be tread on so easily? That’s not civilized!
Moments of offense can happen quickly, without warning, leaving a sting or a bruise. But on a bad day, I carry on in my mind about it for hours and hours afterward. I take my attention entirely off the world I’m enjoying, and I focus entirely on myself and my hurt feelings. In that single moment of taking offense, I suddenly notice the low inventory of others considering MY feelings in the world. So I feel I must take on the challenge of meeting my own demand for consideration and attention. I see the lack, I get upset, then I say “Okay, I’ll consider myself FOR you, AND THEN I’ll tell you all about it! Then you’ll realize how great I am because I’m considering me for you, and by comparison, you’ll see how lousy you are for overlooking me! After all I worked hard for this! Why shouldn’t you?!”
But in that moment of taking offense, I could also pause for half a beat and ask myself, “what was that person’s point anyway?” But then I’d be considering someone else for a moment, when, as I mentioned, I’m already far too busy considering myself because that one guy didn’t, and he should have. In fact, in that moment, I don’t care what his point was, because the real point is that I wasn’t treated well. “How dare he!? I was just… and then he… and he shouldn’t… and I would NEVER!.. And I can’t believe anyone would!.. and I should!”…and so on. Once I have satisfied the lack of consideration of me by conclusively proving my own righteousness to myself, then I can stop. I can relax again. I can put my energy back into rebuilding my cultural capital, and restoring my ego to its full size and resplendence. Oh yeah, I can return to enjoying the world I was in before as well…
Egos are like balloons. When I am full of myself, my ego can become Macy’s-Thanksgiving-Day-sized. Occasionally having an ego get that big can be okay. It’s nice for each of us to have a day like this about once a year (okay, maybe twice), but we can’t get too attached to it. Imagine 5th Avenue with parade balloons on a normal day. Lots of angry noises, friction, and a lot of bumped egos. Just a breeze sends my balloon into a branch, a pole, a building, and then the fun’s over.
A good indicator of how full of myself I might be is how easily I take offense. When I am offended, I feel hurt, overlooked, made to feel less-than. Though that is not okay, I still need to know that, really, it’s not that terrible either. In fact, sometimes getting a little hurt is life’s way of telling me, “hey, you might want to take it down a notch.. It’s not all about you”. After all, there is a lot of pain born in this world by people taking offense rather than giving offense. And perhaps that guy did have a point after all.
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