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Practical Spirituality: Living in the Modern World

Sunday, February 7, 2010

THE ART OF NOT BEING OFFENDED

There is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness and well-being that the Great Ones rarely talk about but frequently utilize, and is one which is fundamental to good mental health. This secret is called The Fine Art of Not Being Offended. In order to truly be a master of this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life experience to date. In other words, the majority of people in our world say and do what they do from their own set of fears, conclusions, defenses and attempts to survive. Most of it, even when aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. It usually has more to do with all the other times and in particular the first few times that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they were young. Yes, this is psychodynamic. But let's face it, we live in a world where psychodynamics are what make the world go around. An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a spiritual person really needs to understand that psychology is as spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means, the study of the soul. Those of us who are either ignorant of this fact or who believe this is not true often tend to have unnecessary suffering where there could be joy.




All of that said, almost NOTHING is personal. Nothing. Even with our closest loved ones and beloved partners and children and friends. We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other's life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions. This is not to dehumanize life or take the intimacy out of our relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding. The true embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we are the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing, we don’t have to take life personally. If it isn’t us, it will likely be someone else. This frees us to be a little more detached to the reactions of people around us. How often do we react to a statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the other might actually be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering, even if they themselves do not appear that way on the surface. All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering. When we provide no velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world. We do not even have to say a thing. In fact it is usually better not to say a thing. People who are suffering are usually not keen on the fact of someone pointing it out. We do not have to be our loved one’s therapist. We need only understand the situation and move on. In the least, we ourselves experience less suffering and at best, we have a chance to make the world a better place.



This is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt, neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm to our selves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a magical thing also happens. All the seeming abusers of the world start to leave our lives. Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying. When we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. We can say, 'Thank you for sharing," and carry on. We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us. When we know that our worth is inherent within us and not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously. And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating more misery for ourselves.



The great challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. The fine art of not being offended is one of the many options for being a practical mystic. Yet I suspect it is the task of a lifetime. It certainly is for me.

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful article! I did so enjoy it - thanks!You write so elegantly and eloquently.

    Some of your great descriptions that delighted me are:
    "We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other's life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions..."

    "When we know that we are the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing, we don’t have to take life personally...."

    "In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering..........
    All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering. When we provide no velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world...."

    "Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying. When we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused...... We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us. When we know that our worth is inherent within us and
    not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously."

    I am reminded of a quote of the Dalai Lama I heard a friend share a long time ago that goes something like "...it is as offensive to take offence as it is to offend"
    that I value that I've always remembered that I thought you might like...
    I will definitely add some of these quotes to my list of favourite quotes and generously share your article with my clients and friends.
    Much gratitude, Susie.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting how you can put on paper (kinda/sorta) the way I am.

    verrry cool.

    -a guy

    ReplyDelete

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