Today, you see people being offended all the time. Maybe not so much in real life. But social media such as Twitter and Facebook is filled with angry people, relentlessly tweeting about what made them offended and angry.
Why do we get offended?
I can think of two reasons; a) when someone insults you, regardless of their intentions, and b) when someone has a different opinion or belief. This is particularly the case when it comes to politics.
a) People get offended when someone insults them
No matter how hard you try to avoid, you meet people who say mean things about you. Even a simple remark from them can ruin your whole day. You keep thinking about what you should have said and how you can get revenge.
Experiencing such insults is common for many people. It might be - your clients or customers who say you're incompetent, your friends who mock you for getting bald, or your brother who makes fun of you for not making much money. When you're facing those people who insult you constantly, it's hard not to get offended.
b) People get offended when someone has a different opinion
The second situation is when others present different opinions than theirs. Many people are capable of accepting the fact that everyone has a different opinion. But it's a different story when it comes to politics. It seems people are more likely to get offended by political remarks they don't agree with. This is typically followed by a discussion where they desperately try to prove they're right and the other person is wrong.
You can’t avoid those annoying people who insult you or challenge your opinion. They’re everywhere, and you have to deal with them daily. But if you get offended by every insult and difference in opinion, you’ll just waste your precious time and energy - the time and energy you could spend on what actually matters such as family, friends, exercise and learning.
Why should you get offended in the first place anyway?
Let’s consider the first situation in which someone insults you. Before you react to the insult, take a moment and ask yourself whether what he/she said is true.
For example, suppose someone mocks you for being small when in fact you are.
Why, as Seneca asks, should you think it is an insult to be told what is self-evident?
Furthermore, ask yourself if you respect the person who’s insulting you. If so, you can accept it as something you can improve on. If not, why even bother? If someone you don’t respect at all is disapproving your actions, you can be sure what you’re doing is right.
Wise people don’t insult others intentionally. Those who insult others have flawed characters. And they don’t deserve your anger. The only thing they deserve is your pity.
Now, let’s consider the second situation in which you get offended by others’ opinions or beliefs.
When you get offended by someone’s opinion, what are you trying to accomplish? Change their mind? Have you ever actually managed to change someone's mind in a debate or discussion? Perhaps you have if you’re a great persuader. But, the problem is that most of us are not, and people are too stubborn to admit they’re wrong.
So, why do you even try to accomplish something that’s nearly impossible? Why waste your time and energy on such things?
Focus on what you can control. This is the most prominent principle of Stoicism. The root cause of emotional suffering (e.g. anger, irritation, grief, jealousy) comes from worrying about things that are beyond your control. Like many things in life, others’ opinions and beliefs are something you can’t control. So, instead of getting worked up by what someone believes, why not just choose to disagree and focus on what you can control.
Getting offended is nothing but a waste of your time and energy. It distracts you from doing what actually matters in your life.
To prevent this tragedy from happening you should: