I choose to not be offended when someone disagrees with me.

It seems that the world is so chaotic right now. There are a multitude of opinions from many different sides to every problem or debate. The majority of people are seeking to be heard and tearing down others for not believing the same as them. It’s a “my way or the highway” kind of attitude that pushes us further and further apart.

But, does it have to be that way?

No, not at all. I rejoiced when a few months ago, in the midst of chaos in our country, a friend of mine posted on Facebook how she had just had a two-hour conversation with someone who believed differently from her and yet they still liked each other. Their views were conflicting but, yet, these two people had sought to understand one another and while neither person changed their views on the subject they came away with a mutual respect.

The affirmation and idea of, “I choose to not be offended when someone disagrees with me,” is so needed in the world today. And it is so needed within our homes and for our own sake as well. When we come from a place of not being offended, we come from a place of love and connection.

This is not an easy process. It requires vulnerability. It requires you to look within yourself and see something that you may not want to see. But there is beauty in vulnerability. Surfacing our vulnerability helps us to then learn and grow. It helps us to find the ways we can change to then reach the divine potential in which we seek. When it comes to our relations with others our vulnerability allows us to open up the invitation to create a safe place to be vulnerable, to understand one another, and to see each other as children of God, with love and a mutual respect for one another.

When we allow ourselves to be offended then we start putting up walls, keeping others out as well as ourselves. We stop learning about others and we stop learning about ourselves. We then stop connecting as well, feeling alone in the world and also (though perhaps unconsciously) feeling ashamed of ourselves. In turn we stop embracing our true identity.

So, what do you do about it? How do you keep yourself from being offended? From putting up those walls that keep us from being vulnerable and in turn connected?

Step 1: Dive into Why It’s Important to You

The first thing is to remind yourself of why it’s important to not be offended. Take a moment right now, and imagine what it would be like if you embraced this idea of not being offended by others. How do you envision yourself responding to the other person who believes differently? What thoughts would you have about them? Would you be able to see them as someone who has been through a lot? Would you wonder what experiences that they’ve had or seen that have led them to the conclusions of what they believe? Would you seek to understand before being understood? How would you feel towards them? Would you see them as God sees them? As a child of God?

Then write down the insights that you gained from this visualization and the reasons why this idea of choosing to not be offended would benefit you. Taking this time to think through why something is important increases your desire to embrace it. The more desire you have, the more likely you are to act on it.

Step 2: Understand What’s Behind It

Take a moment and think about a specific experience where you got into a heated disagreement with another person or an interaction that really left you unsettled. Write down some of the reasons that you felt so heated or unsettled. What occurred in the interaction that upset you?

Take a look at what you wrote down. Did you feel wronged in some way? Were there feelings of offense that you felt? What might it be that caused you to feel offended? Was there anything that you would have changed about how you responded to them? Perhaps not. And that’s okay. I’m glad that you felt you handled the situation well. Even then, however, you still have unsettled feelings so keep asking questions to determine why those unsettled feelings are there.  

What causes us to feel unsettled? What causes us to take things personally and as if they were attacking us? Do we assume things about that person rather than learning more about them? Do we just feel that we are not being heard ourselves? In the situations where we act in anger and frustration, what keeps us from listening to another person’s point of view? Or is it that the other person is angry and offended and that sets us off? Why do we respond in such a way to someone else who is angry? What might be some other things keeping you from not being offended?

Sometimes it is a matter of taking something personally. At times my husband will make a comment on the cleanliness of the house and I become irritated. The comment is not directed at me and he does not blame me when the house gets out of control. In fact, sometimes it’s not even a comment but that he is doing some of the cleaning and I get offended by him doing it because it was on my to-do list. Was it really about me? No! Was he criticizing me? No, not at all. Yet I internalized what was going on, I took it personally, and was unconsciously telling myself that I was not doing enough and essentially telling myself that I am not enough. At times, underneath our irritation and offended feelings, there is an insecurity we need to address.

There is power in taking time to figure out why you are feeling unsettled because in those moments where you stop and think about the thoughts that you are having that are causing your unsettled feelings, you gain a greater insight into what happened. You can come to see how what was said and felt was and is affecting you. And through analyzing the internal thoughts that you are having you can also see that maybe it wasn’t really about you.

Another thing that could be holding you back is your assumptions about what someone else may be thinking of you. Once again there is a sense of insecurity in this. Why are you so concerned about how someone will view you? In these moments dive into your reasons as to why you believe the way that you do. Are they valid? Do your beliefs serve you and make you a better person? If so, then why feel offended when someone disagrees with you? The surer you are of who you are and what you believe, the more you will be comfortable being in a situation where you can openly, curiously and with love discuss differences.

Even in doing this, there will still be times that the other person becomes irritated, resentful and at times even angry. In these moments, it’s again, not about you, but about what is going on within that person. In these moments when the other person is unwilling to even discuss things with you, it’s okay to move on from the subject and/or walk away.

Step 3: Glimpse the Other Person’s POV

Ask yourself, “What is the positive intention or main desire of the person who has a differing opinion from me?” By asking this question we assume that there are reasons behind why that person feels offended or angry, perhaps they are feeling insecure or perhaps they have had or seen some traumatic experience that shaped their point of view. Asking this question helps you to gain greater insight into what the other person is really thinking and feeling.

Remember that we only have our own limited perspective. There are many assumptions that we make through out each day and in each conversation that we have. So, keeping an open mind about what the other person is thinking can help us to stay focused on what’s really going on in the conversation.

Going through these steps will help you to feel less unsettled and offended by those who have differing opinions as you. This process also helps you to better understand yourself, thereby gaining a deeper connection to who you are and to what you believe. As we seek first to understand ourselves and others, we then are able to provide opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with one another.

I Choose to Not be Offended when Someone Disagrees with Me

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Raising Super C Kids

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~Dani Enkey, @a.day.with.dani http://adaywithdani.com

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