How do we understand what offends us and the most importantly how do we see the choice to not be offended by it.
I have had a lot of experience in my life going through day by day being offended by people, by companies, by various facts of life and I can tell you today that being difficult to offend is a very peaceful way for me live and I love it.
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For example, let me share a story. Yesterday I was driving on the freeway on 175 in St. Petersburg, Florida, getting on the merge lane to go North towards Tampa. There is a vehicle coming up in the right lane behind me, not that fast but faster then I am going. I’m in the left lane. Were coming up to merge into one lane, the right lane merges into the left lane. I am driving the speed limit, maybe a couple of miles an hour over that, just right about at the speed limit. I intend to be a safe driver because I care about everyone else on the road and I don’t want anyone to wreck. Thus I trust the guys on the speed limit and I stick by that.
I am in a position to merge and a car comes up and then flies right past me as the lanes are already merging, cuts right in front of me and it appears that whoever was the person in the car had a thin tanned hand and long hair blowing down, sticks a middle finger out the window. I imagine at me but I don’t know it.
In the past things much smaller than that triggered me off to the point where I literally ran people off the road and nearly caused car accidents. I am proud of that? No!
I tell you that because it’s the truth and owning the truth in the things that I’ve done inside me that allows me to not be offended by other people’s behavior.
In that story, as they cut me off and flicked me off, they did things that in the past greatly offended me and yesterday not only was I not offended, I was entertained and I laughed at it. Because I saw it was nothing personal and because I’m OK with what I’ve done. I’ve learnt that I never want to do those things again like racing, chasing people around in cars…
I’ve done all kinds of dumb things driving, for example slowing down to 40 or 50 miles an hour on the Interstate because someone did something to me, I would sit next to a track and make everybody drive slow.
The key to understanding what offends us is seeing first that we are offendable and second that the only things that truly bother us about other people’s behavior are how they reflect on our own judgments of ourselves.
To give you another example of this where you might say that I was on the other end of the offense spectrum. After my Alcoholics Anonymous meeting the other day someone came up to me afterwards and was very upset. In their word they said, this is a paraphrase, Jerry, what you said the other day about this topic really offended me I can’t believe that you did these things before and you shouldn’t mention them at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Now if you’re interested in the things I’m talking about I have two book, one is Speaker Meaning 2070 and the other is Officer Banfield. It covers much of the things I have done in my life and the kind of things I share at AA meetings, the exact kind of things that this person complained about. In their words they were mad enough and expecting violence. They thought a fist fight with me was possible based on what I had said and how they felt about it.
I am grateful that I have been through this exact experience several times before. I did not get offended that someone else was offended by me and I didn’t take it personally. I was able to see that this person’s offense was that I feel forgiven for the things I talked about. That I feel like, not that it’s an excuse, there is no point in further punishing myself about what I have done in the past. When I am forgiven by myself for the things I have done I am empowered to help others who are struggling with these exact same things in their lives.
In fact, the gift of doing anything sinful or wrong or immoral is the ability to help someone else who has been through those challenges.
In this capitalistic world it is often in our best interest to not offend anyone because we might, in theory, missed out on financial opportunities as a result of the offense we’ve given.
We have a plaque in our society today of the unwillingness to offend anyone. The unfortunate thing is, a lot of what we need to heal and talk about starts with uncomfortable conversations. Those who are offended are able then to get offended very easily when any uncomfortable topic comes up. This is all related to a discomfort, a judgement, a lack of forgiveness of one’s own deeds.
I understand that if someone says they’re offended at me it really has very little to do when I’m in the right state. If I’m in another state, if I am off center, if I am running off with my mouth and cutting people out and putting my finger out the window on a car, which thankfully very rarely happens, these are the things I can look and say -- My behavior is contributing to this offense and this isn’t the kind of behavior I would choose to have.
When my behavior is the exact behavior I choose to have -- I’m very happy with it and then someone’s offended I understand the offense has to do with them. Even in this case I might be helping someone by them taking offense to my behavior. Because of the things that have helped me have started with someone offending me and then me questioning why am I offended. I see that today if I say something in Alcoholics Anonymous meeting about the things I’ve done the past and someone gets offended, there was a person who raise their hand the other night in a meeting and said they felt the way I talked about sex during my shares was unacceptable and that people were getting uncomfortable. I didn’t even respond, fortunately it was in a good format, because I understand the person shared that because they are sexually frustrated, they are not comfortable with their own sex lives and this was easy to see based on the things they shared before, and it really has nothing to do with me.
Another member responded for me and said those are not the opinions of the entire group, these are individual opinions and not all of us feel that way. I didn’t even say anything, I did not need to stand up for myself because there was nothing to defend. This was another person who simply hurt and the fact that I do feel comfortable talking about the worst of my behavior with anyone who needs to hear it, not just blatantly putting it out there for no reason but sharing it to show what once left me feeling like an awful piece of whatever disgusting thing you want to label, what used to leave me feeling like I didn’t deserve to be loved and accepted, now it doesn’t. In fact I may be able to help people that have struggled with the exact same things I have, to feel forgiven, to feel understood, to feel accepted.
If you want to understand what offends you the key to overcome that is to look within. When I get offended there is always something going on with me that’s relevant to the offense.
It is just like that example driving yesterday and I laughed and I was entertained, I was like, wow, I’m immune to that kind of behavior. I’m immune to it, the reaction didn’t even come up in me and in fact different reaction came out. Thus I was unoffendable.
You couldn’t offend me with bad driving and flicking me off. Honestly speaking I’m not interested in having a more difficult test like an accident to see how far I can take this and yet I can say if I can handle the smallest things then I’m capable of handling a bigger offense. That it would be possible for me to even be run over and killed in a car accident and still not be offended, even as my immortal soul leaves behind this body and raises over. It is possible for me to still not be offended in the level of what you might say maximum offense.
This is a really valuable life skill today, in a world where many of us are afraid to even go certain places because we might be offended. What is the thing that really scares us about being offended: is it in our own behavior?
The other side of this is that when I seek to understand rather than being understood I gain wisdom and peace with how the world is.
I see people complaining and being offended and struggling and today I understand that. I get that. Other people’s offense and a lack of understanding doesn’t offend me today. Other people flicking me off, so they speak, I don’t even really see it that way. I see this is a person driving and putting their hand out the window, it has nothing to do with me and it’s even entertaining that they think it does, in their mind, have something to do with me when any other car would have got the same treatment right there.
If you want to understand what offends you then go within. As I talked about the other day at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, the person who was offended afterwards, I explain this exact thing to them and this is how I came up with this video because I don’t know if they will understand it. Maybe you will. I told the person, I said, if you think I’ve done something so offensive then how are you able to have any hope of treating yourself decently over the things you’ve done. You see, if you find what I’ve done offensive, you don’t have to spend every moment in my mind or in my body. What really offend you is that you find yourself unforgivable. That’s exactly what was said. The person said Yes, I think the things I’ve done are unforgivable I will never be forgiven for what I’ve done.
Is that the mind state you would choose to have, if you had a choice about it? I felt that way before. I understand how it feels to look at your life and say I’ve done these things that are unforgivable and I will never be forgiven for them. As I suggested to this person talking to them, in my experience that when told from my point of view, because it works better to talk from your point of view, I said I noticed the tendency in myself when I did things that were unforgivable and I wouldn’t forgive myself for ironically gave me permission to do it again.
What does a person who is already full of sin or full of offense have to lose by doing it again? In fact it becomes a bit of an identity -- I am the kind of person that hurts people. When I won’t forgive myself for the people I’ve hurt ironically my identity is that of one who hurts people. Back when I used to drive crazy I’m the kind of person who drives aggressively therefore when somebody offends me they better be ready for more of the same.
When I’m forgiven for all that I’ve done then I’m not the kind of person who runs people off the road when I get upset. I’m not the kind of person who comes dangerously close to causing a car accident because someone stuck their hand out the window. I’m not that kind of person because I’m forgiven, because I understand that, in the words of this person I was talking to, I was young and stupid before.
I did my best, my best helped me see a clear need for improvement that my best was not feeling good enough and now I am proud of my best and I still seek to improve. Today I’m grateful that I don’t have any identity as a crazy driver and it’s only with forgiving ourselves.
Now for a lot of us we can’t just sit at home and forgive ourselves by ourselves. I found for me I needed what’s called confession generally or an Alcoholics Anonymous V step where you admit to God, to ourselves and most importantly to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
What helped me to forgive myself was to go and admit the nature of my wrongs to other people which I first did very privately. First with people in Alcoholics Anonymous, then with a rector at an episcopal church and all the way to now I have books going out with the same kinds of things Speaker Meeting 2017 and Officer Banfiled. I have written books detailing the same kinds of things that used to be my darkest secret. Because I am forgiven by God, by other people and by myself.
I found in talking to a rector at an episcopal church a powerful truth in me. It was easy for me to see that God created me as I am, therefore God has no need to even judge his or her own creation. Of course God forgives me, God has no issue with me, God created me and is very happy with how I turned out, for better and worse. That’s a perfect creation.
And for other people it was easy to see, the rector at the church didn’t excuse my behavior. He said You did the best you could with what you’ve got and you are motivated to do better now and you won’t do those things again, will you? No, that is why I am here, because I don’t want to do any of the things I’ve just talked about again. What I found and where I cried and where I felt the forgiveness is when he said “God forgives you and I forgive you and many of these people you talked to forgive you or weren’t even hurt at all. Are you going to forgive yourself?”. That to me is where the challenge was, can I forgive myself?
When I see someone who is offended, to me this is someone who has not forgiven themselves. For some reason what they see triggers things they have never forgiven themselves for.
If people would realize how transparent they are to a person like me, with their offenses, they would rush to forgive themselves and get help. For example if someone is screaming about a certain news story I imagine there is some lack of forgiveness in themselves that directly relate to that news story. If you think about the kind of things people see and get upset about, imagine these are the people’s darkest and deepest secrets and most ashamed of areas. Someone who is screaming and ranting and raving about something, you know that is their issue, to one degree or another. That becomes transparent. When most of us realize how easy it is to see through us by our offenses we would seek never to be offended again. Even if just to maintain our reputation and not to out our worst selves out there easily. When you become so transparent you don’t have these dark areas that you won’t talk about, these shame areas, then the world becomes a peaceful beautiful place that is easy to enjoy.
I am very grateful to serve you and I think every day how can I help you, how can I share what I have learned with you, how may I help you today.
You are prepared now to go forward without being offended and if you are offended so seek to understand where the offense is possible instead of transferring hurt onto somebody else.
I love you. You’re awesome. And I’ll see you in the next post.
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