Who are you trying to become?
You might answer that you are trying to become a better parent. It might be that you are working to build a stronger business. Maybe you are trying to become a millionaire, to live a healthy lifestyle or to become the CEO of a corporation. If we are forward thinking, we are all trying to become something that we currently are not. I’d love to share with you what I am working to become.
I’m trying to become unoffendable.
I mentioned this in a conversation recently and I was scoffed at. This person told me that it was ridiculous to attempt to become unoffendable and unrealistic at the same time. I disagreed.
I think becoming unoffendable will be one of the most challenging journeys that I’ve ever been on and possibly one of the most beneficial.
Because as I have time to look back on the seasons of life, relationships and the challenges within them, few things have destroyed more relationships in the history of my life than being offended. Sometimes it was others offended by me, but too often, it was me being offended by others.
With each individual instance, I might have felt disrespected. I could have taken something that was said the wrong way. Ironically enough, I might not have taken it the wrong way and what they said or did was truly rude or out of line. I could have felt slighted by being ignored, I might have been annoyed by not being picked or I might have bothered by not being taken seriously enough.
But what did each of these individual situations have in common? The common tie in to why these friendships and relationships deteriorated was because I got offended. Actually, I chose to be offended.
Now, for a good portion of my life, I would never have questioned my ability and my right to be offended. I should be offended, I believed. If someone does something that is offensive, shouldn’t I be? We should not let people treat us poorly.
And that’s where I think so many of us have gotten it wrong and have destroyed relationships in the process.
Going back to the email a couple weeks ago, we need to set boundaries, not be pushovers and avoid being people pleasers. But so often, it’s a thin fine line between being a pushover and being offended. That spot in between is a valuable spot to attain.
That’s why, instead of anything else I can strive for, I am striving to become unoffendable.
As I contemplated this challenge, I thought back to my relationship with my dad. For many years, I felt resentment. I always believed that I got the proverbial “short straw”. I chose to believe that so intensely that I made up nicknames for me and my brother Steve. One year, Steve and I played in a hockey league together. He wasn’t there the night where we selected our jerseys, and we got to have our names printed on the back. When he showed up for the first game, he had ‘Favorite Son’ displayed prominently across his back while I played the season as ‘Second Fiddle’. I not only believed the bias but I ran with it. I took being offended to a higher level where it began to define our relationships.
Because I chose to feel that way, I saw interactions through that lens. Anything that would confirm my offense, I would find and point out. It became a self fulfilling prophecy where it put a divide between me and my dad and I saw that self inflicted divide as another piece of proof of my label as second fiddle.
I remained offended for decades. Until the moment when our relationship began to improve. I would love to tell you that my dad finally realized how poorly he was treating me and he changed his ways. But that never happened. He didn’t change anything.
Our relationship changed because I stopped being offended. I stopped seeing myself as the victim. I stopped looking for reasons to be annoyed. Miraculously, our relationship changed from the very next conversation. Instead of resentment, I looked towards appreciation. Instead of looking for problems, I looked and found things to be grateful for. Our relationship, from that point on, has grown stronger and greater than ever before.
For me, that was a tremendous lesson to learn. I’ve been far from perfect in being unoffendable. There have been some epic failures in that category during that time. But there have been enough “turn the cheek” moments to get me to realize that the more unoffendable I am, the happier I become. The less offense I take, the more I’m able to see a different point of view. Even if I don’t agree, or it’s rude, or it’s insensitive, I still don’t need to be offended by it. I can spend less time with that person. I can attempt to see if they are acting out because of their pain, not because they are trying to bring me pain. I can ignore them all together.
But being offended brings resentment. It fuels the ego. It manifests expectation.
None of those things makes life- or relationships- better.
For those reasons, and more, I will strive to be unoffendable.