I am not the type that is easily offended.
It’s not that I have some thick skin; I don’t. I am tenderhearted and my feelings can get hurt rather easily.
However, when it comes to being offended, I normally don’t take offense that quickly.
But being offended is almost rampant these days – everyone takes great umbrage over every little statement and nuance.
Once, someone had called my family rednecks. I was horrified – sure, my grandparents were blue collar workers but rednecks?
I expected Granny to retaliate in a fiery fashion, with her own brand of fire and brimstone.
Not even a word.
The old gal didn’t even bat a lash.
“Why didn’t that make you angry?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Why in the heck should I get angry? I didn’t find no truth in it.”
“But they said –”
“I know what they said. And that person don’t mean nothing to me. Their words are just words and have no power in my life. If it ain’t true, it ain’t true and there ain’t no need in me getting all tore up about it.”
Instead of getting upset, Granny chose to ignore it.
Now, if they had said she was a horrible cook, her biscuits were rocks, and her turkey was dry, Granny’s response may have been much different.
But the opinion was that we were rednecks.
Granny had long declared we was a bunch of hillbillies, with roots deep in the Appalachia that may have grown deep before the hills were even here. Rednecks, we were not; hillbillies, we were proud to be.
Her response stayed with me over the years.
When someone called me an ugly word one day, it rolled off my back.
It wasn’t true so I didn’t give it any power.
As someone gave their opinion on another topic that could have resonated with me, I didn’t respond.
“I’m sorry, did I offend you?” they asked.
First of all, we all know if they are asking after the fact, they knew good and darn well what they said may have not been delivered in a gesture of loving kindness.
It was meant to be a jab, a veiled insult that was supposed to get a rise out of everyone in their listening vicinity.
I shook my head. “Not at all.”
Following Granny’s lead years before, I wasn’t giving their words any power.
Even though what they said could have caused pain, I didn’t let it. I chose to not pay it any attention.
I know the old playground nursery rhyme tells us that sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us and that is absolutely not true. Words can and do hurt, sometimes more so than any twigs or rocks. But the sting is much less when the words hold no truth.
“What does it mean when someone is offended, Mama? Are their feelings just hurt really bad?” Cole asked, hearing me describe a situation where someone was offended.
What does it really mean – to be offended? If we are offended, it typically means we are angry or displeased with something. It doesn’t mean we are right or the other person is right. It is our reaction.
“It means something upset us and we don’t agree with it,” was my answer.
“So if someone eats pork and I don’t – because it’s Piggie – am I right in being offended?”
“You could be offended. Or, you could choose to say that is their choice. We may not agree with it but it is their personal choice just as we choose not to eat Piggie.”
A friend recently said she was offended by something a celebrity said and asked me if I was offended by it.
I think I offended her when I told her no, I hadn’t really given it much thought.
“You should. You should be outraged by what they said!”
I considered this for a moment. “By me being offended, what does that accomplish really?”
She had no reply.
“Will it change their opinion, or make them apologize? More importantly – change their hearts? No. It won’t. All it will do is create anger and strife in my life. If I am going to get all up and bajiggedy, it will be over something important. Not someone’s opinion.”
We have 100’s of opportunities to be offended every day. We also have the choice to not be.
Maybe it’s that hillbilly perseverance, but I am reserving my right to only be offended over things that really matter. Not the things that don’t.