The world has changed. People… not so much. We all laugh and cry, are happy and sad. We all get angry and other people hurt our feelings. Sometimes they mean to, sometimes they don’t, but pain is pain either way.
The thing is, we can’t all walk around looking for things to be offended by; enough offense finds us on its own. And when you get down below all the clutter and noise, this is the truth: We’re all the same. We all bleed red. We all offend and, at times, we’re all offended.
Some blame parents. When both work to pay the bills and aren’t hyper-focused on parenting, the family/kids suffer. When the family breaks down, the parent(s) aren’t sufficiently parenting, and the family/kids suffer. Logically, we know we’re not super human. Parents with many obligations must divide their time and resources. In single parent households, the parent is often so busy keeping a roof over heads and food on the table, s/he can’t be or do everything he or she would like to do. Same goes for households where both parents are working.
The bottom line is parents are human. And even the best parent in the world, trying as hard as s/he can to be a great parent, is going to fall short and screw up. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent and no such thing as a perfect child. While we all have things in common, we’re all unique individuals, which means we have different needs, too. So we muddle through and parent(s) and children do their best. They succeed some and fail some and most hope and pray a lot that they succeed more than they fail.
Sometimes we forget that. We are bitter and angry because we’re not getting what we want or need. Or what we think we want or need. Sometimes we’re right about that—we aren’t getting what we need—but sometimes we’re not right. We’re looking at ourselves and not at all sides of the situation. We’re offended because we feel slighted. Because our world, as we envision what it should be, isn’t. We want our vision and don’t have it, so we’re resentful. And too often we decide that shortfall is someone else’s fault. We cast blame, yet blame only complicates the challenges. And that brings us to the lesson mom (or dad) should have and might not have taught us.
That lesson deals with maturity. Mature people look at situations from all perspectives, through eyes that don’t blame but access. Only after assessing can one seek constructive solutions to any challenge.
One constructive solution is to realize, accept and understand that what seems really important at the moment likely isn’t important, or isn’t important long-term. That doesn’t mean there’s no value in it. It means there’s something to be learned about that value, and it’s what you learn and not the event offering the lesson that most matters.
Before you spiral into depression, ask yourself if you’re going to remember this event in five years. Is it going to change you forever? Should you be that angry, that devastated, that offended by it?
The thing is, most of the situations that really upset us are short-term. We need to remind ourselves that everything is not a crisis. We also need to remind ourselves that if we’re old enough and mature enough to think about things in this way, we’re old enough and mature enough to know we can reason through the challenge.
We don’t wake up at eighteen or twenty-one with judgment. We develop it over our entire lives. Some things work well. We want to repeat them. Some things don’t work at all. We want to avoid repeating them. We have to learn. It is our good and bad experiences that shape us into the adults we become.
Sometimes people aren’t available for us. That’s reality. Sometimes they are dealing with issues and trials and obstacles we have no idea exist. The point is, others have lives, too, and their lives are demanding, just as ours are. Sometimes we know what they’re going through and sometimes we don’t. Some people consider specific things too personal to share. They don’t want to share, don’t want to burden others with their troubles. They want to protect others. They want to forget. If we remember that we never know someone else’s whole story, and we view their actions and what they say through that prism, we have deeper compassion for them and we are less inclined to be offended.
Being offended is easy. The problem is that what offends one person doesn’t offend others. We all bring our own gifts and baggage to every table. And what’s in that baggage and those gifts are different. Today, we find more focus levied on being offended rather than on celebrating a diverse variety of gifts and understanding a plethora of baggage.
At times, it is impossible not to offend others. It’s impossible to live in a place shared with others where what offends is universal because the things deemed offensive are not universal. Oh, we pretty much agree that things like murder, theft, and abuse are offensive. But today, rightly or wrongly, people are offended by so much more. It is common for what one person holds dear and cherishes to be deemed offensive by another.
The thing is when you live in a country that celebrates the freedom of speech and expression and choice, and you claim those freedoms, then you must also accept the responsibility to not infringe on those rights as they relate to others.
The responsibility part is one many of us seem to forget or ignore. Instead, we embrace the privileges and shun the responsibilities. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way it works. It is fair to the embracer and unfair to all others, who equally share the privilege and responsibility.
The lesson from all of this on offending and being offended is this:
Nothing in life is all about you and what you want or need. Those things are important, but no more or less than what others want or need. Everyone is equally important. And everyone has rights and responsibilities. They are a package deal, and one does not exist without the other.
To coexist peacefully, mutual respect is required. Not warranted. Not an aspiration. Not an ideal. Required.
This requirement insists we seek to coexist peacefully. To understand and view actions and events honestly with understanding, compassion and mutual respect.
This requirement insists we seek to not be offended—and that is the lesson Mom should have taught you about what offends us today…and every day.