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Accidental Philosopher: On taking offence

People are always getting offended. Judy Balan has come to the conclusion that it’s just something people like to do. Judy Balan writes.

brunch Updated: Jul 03, 2012 13:45 IST
Judy Balan

People are always getting offended. It doesn't matter if the offence in question was unintentional, if it was a joke or if it was directed at someone else. I've come to the conclusion that it's just something people like to do. If you don't believe me, try telling the truth the next time someone asks a What do you really think question. Or stare at a stranger for three seconds longer than usual. Or better yet, read all the comments on everybody's status update on your newsfeed. You'll see that it takes almost nothing - a bumper sticker, a bad review, a baseless opinion - to ruffle feathers these days.

AngryI remember something Joyce Meyer once said on taking offence. She said it's called that because you have to exert some effort into taking it. Which means, you can choose not to take offence. I know this sounds easier said than done but I've found a super cool way to exercise it - it stems from the idea that the world is one big pre-nursery classroom - in other words, every time I come close to taking offence, I see the offending person as a preschooler in my head.

You know that girl who is always discouraging you (the friend) from taking a big step in your relationship with your partner? Maybe she was the whiny child who cried for her mommy all day, every day in kindergarten. So the reason she's discouraging you is not because she's jealous or doesn't want you to be happy, it's because she has abandonment issues. And that guy who is insanely in love with you but always ends up cheating on you or hurting you in some way because he has no sense of boundaries? His mother kept him in a playpen for way too many hours every day and as an adult, he sees every line around him as confining - something that restricts his freedom. Or take that colleague who insists on doing everything his way even when you present him with an easier alternative. He was the skinny kid who was bullied by the big boys and now he spends his adulthood 'not backing down.' As for the ones who decidedly take everything you say and do the wrong way, manipulate, create drama everywhere they go and are never happy? They were probably the chalk eaters. Let's not even get into their issues.

So you see, it's kind of difficult to be offended by someone who - in your head - is trapped inside a play pen and stomping his tiny feet in outrage, or you know, take a chalk eater too seriously. In fact, the longer you practice my (purely unscientific) method, you'll find that it's not only easy to not take offence, but you actually feel sorry for the offender.
I mean, it's not about you at all. It's about Mister Wetty Pants from kindergarten masquerading as the Big Bad Bully in the workspace.
And I'm not saying we should let people use childhood trauma as an excuse for douchebaggery but it does help put things in perspective when you're the one at the receiving end.

And if - after all you've done - your Playpen Guy doesn't appreciate you, perhaps you could do yourself a favour and set him up with Chalk Girl.

Judy is a compulsive theorist and dreamy single-mum. She believes in serendipity, The Butterfly Effect and is pop-culture-crap intolerant. She is also the best-selling author of Two Fates - The Story of My Divorce