We’ve all been there. The “event” happened hours ago…maybe even days or worse yet, years and our minds are set on replay. Replaying the event with the inserted language of what we wish we would’ve said. Or maybe you aren’t replaying but anticipating. Anticipating what you will say or do if you run into her in the produce section of Target. Or if you see him traipsing out of the gym at his usual time. Have you ever found yourself in this state, or is it just me?
One definition of offense states, “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.”
If you’ve lived longer than half a millisecond, you are highly aware that the opportunity to take offense towards another is infiltrating our world in abundance. Cut off in traffic. Your boss didn’t say hi this morning. You were passed over to bring monthly snacks for Charlie’s class. Offended. Or worse. Your best friend’s phone calls seem to be getting less and less. The pink slip was given to you over the newer employee. Your moral opinions are being challenged by another’s vantage point. Offended.
The act of offense is often out of our control; the act of being offended is ours to let go.
Author Bryant McGill states, “The feeling of being “offended” is a warning indicator that is showing you where to look within yourself for unresolved issues.” Ouch.
But how do we look inward when what’s been done was outward? How do we let go when our feelings are soaking in hurt? Speaking from much experience, the grip of holding on to an offense has the potential to leave wounds far more profound than the actual offense. So how?
Let’s borrow a cue from McGill and take time to examine ourselves. Take time to explore our reaction. Maybe our frustration towards the lack of phone calls is stemming from a deep desire for connection and feeling valued that we are seeking from others. And maybe our best friend’s lack of contact has less to do with them not valuing us and more to do with the 23.4 million responsibilities she is attempting to perfect in being a mom and a wife. Looking below the surface will give us clues as to why we feel a certain way and how to let our emotions work for us and not against us.
Let’s also remember it is okay to carry morals and values without everyone agreeing with them or even understanding them. Does it feel good? No. But can we still thrive in our belief system without it? Yes.
Lastly, let us remember that when we choose to be offended, we are the ones choosing to carry the extra baggage. Let’s go further than that. What if we intentionally choose to believe the best in others, to believe that people are trying their hardest to function in this thing we call life? Let us be people when an offense does occur; we choose to give grace, offer forgiveness, and walk on in the freedom found in choosing not to be a person who is easily offended!
Consider these things: How do you deal with your anger? How would you describe your level of ambition? What type of communication style do you have (assertive, passive, passive-aggressive, etc.)? Notice your attitude. Is it usually pleasant or off-putting? Notice your mental health. Are you depressed, anxious, stressed? Take a moment to think about how these things may be affecting your children.
Children are like little sponges that soak up everything, developing ideas at a young age and carrying them into adulthood. They know when you are feeling angry, sad, or happy and learn how to communicate by the way other people in their household communicate. Children learn about relationships based on the relationships they are exposed to.
If your child has anger issues and does not know how to appropriately express his or her anger, it can be a direct result of parenting. The child might be modeling behavior that he or she has witnessed in the household. On the other hand, the child’s behavior might be simply perpetuated by reinforcements. If your child is given what he or she wants whenever a tantrum is thrown, that is positive reinforcement. Giving in to your child’s tantrums and/or angry outbursts promotes and perpetuates that behavior.
Ideas such as this can be applied to other areas such as how you communicate, how you behave in relationships, how you manage finances, how you parent children, how you clean your house, how you treat others, and how you take care of yourself. You first experience each of these as a child in the home of your parents. Everything that you do has a profound effect on the way your children turn out, shaping the concepts that your children develop throughout their lives.
Modeling is a learning method that allows us to collect information about behavior based on what we witness and imitate that behavior. Ex. Watching your mom make pasta, and now you have learned how to make pasta based on what you have observed.
Reinforcement is a learning method that allows us to collect information about behavior based on the consequences of the behavior. Ex. A child throws a tantrum over a toy that he wants, he is given the toy so that he will stop the tantrum. The child learns that the next time he wants a toy, he should throw a tantrum.
We do not realize that we use these methods (along with other learning methods) everyday to teach our children. Teaching a child to throw a tantrum to get whatever he or she wants sets the child up for a life of challenges. As an adult, throwing a tantrum (referred to as emotional dysregulation in adults) can result in going to jail. As a teenager, this same behavior may result in many suspensions from school and other disciplinary actions. It’s important to remember that we model how to communicate. Your child might not know how to use his or her words when feeling emotionally overwhelmed if it is not a skill that is regularly practiced at home. Once a child has perpetuated a certain behavior for several years, it will be very difficult for the behavior to be reversed. When thinking about your child’s behaviors consider how they might have learned them. Did modeling play a part? Are their behaviors being reinforced?
When raising your children, consider how successful and/or happy you want them to be in all areas of their life (relationships, career, parenting, etc.). After you have thought about it, consider what current behaviors they have learned that might hinder their success. Then, consider ways in which you can model behavior that will be conducive to their success and reinforce appropriate behavior. Be mindful not to reinforce negative behaviors by rewarding the child for them. You have the power to help your children live successful and happy lives based on the concepts that you teach them. You also have the power to decide what you want your family legacy to be for future generations.
If you need more specific guidance about how to identify some of your family’s maladaptive generational cycles, schedule an appointment for a family therapy session. Resolve has several clinicians who can provide an outside and educated perspective about your family’s challenges.
I’ve talked about how vulnerability is hard before and how it’s okay to show your authentic self to those you love, but let’s take a minute to talk about joy.
Joy can be defined as “a feeling of great pleasure or happiness”. I want to hone in on the word “great” in that definition. It’s not just a feeling of pleasure; rather, it’s a feeling of great pleasure.
It’s one thing to experience pleasure or happiness, but joy is the feeling that makes you think your heart is going to burst out of your chest.
It’s the one that feels so intense in your chest, you wonder if it’s actually anxiety.
It’s what you feel after you have a baby or maybe after buying a first house or after eating a really great slice of pizza.
For me, joy was the feeling I felt intensely after recently getting engaged to a wonderful and considerate man.
It’s the feeling that we want more of.
It’s the feeling that’s so terrifying that we avoid it.
In Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness, she describes how joy is one of the most vulnerable emotions we can feel as humans. To experience joy, we are allowing ourselves to experience great risk of the other side. When we allow ourselves to experience this fully, we are in our most vulnerable state.
The opposite of joy is pain. Have you ever pictured a fantastic moment and then another second later pictured it being completely destroyed? That feeling you just had reading that is fear. The fear of losing the people or moments that bring you so much joy is what stops us from being vulnerable and allowing ourselves to experience joy in the first place.
It would be easiest to not allow yourself to be vulnerable with people. In fact, I’ve thought this thought before. Without that vulnerability, though, without being completely seen, or completely present, or completely all in, you wouldn’t know what joy felt like.
And joy is something we all deserve to feel.
Did you know that relapse among people addicted to substances is more likely to happen when things are going WELL in their lives...when they are experiencing joy...than when things are going poorly?
Sometimes the risk of losing joy is too much, so we sabotage and lose it ourselves so that we can avoid feeling the pain of that loss.
Knowing this is the first step to changing your view of joy.
Joy, like other emotions, is a feeling. Feelings pass from one moment to another. Yes, the joy isn’t going to stay forever, but neither will pain, fear, or anxiety. These emotions will pass too. If we never allow ourselves the opportunity to experience joy, to be present in joy, we are closing ourselves off from one of the most incredible and important human experiences.