“Do not give, invite or take offense.” This is sometimes easier said than done.
I am a caregiver assisting elders who at times do not filter what they say. I was assisting Anna, who recently lost her upper teeth which has changed her speech. She mentioned to me that people do not understand her when she speaks. I responded that I understand her and that everyone who provides care for her does. Indignantly Anna asked, “Are you calling me a liar?” I waited a few seconds before answering so I could find a proper response. I told her no but that I was glad she felt free to voice her concern.
In the past, I would have taken offense and then given offense. And it always ended up in an outward argument. For example, when Anna asked if I was calling her a liar, I heard thoughts in my mind such as, “She always has to say something negative.” “She’s always trying to prove that she is right, and I am wrong.” These thoughts have run through my mind not only with Anna but also with others.
After reading Right is Might, the following paragraph stood out to me which has immensely helped me in all my relationships:
“The situation of conflict arises when a person gives offense. That is most likely to happen after someone else invited offense, but conflict does not materialize until offense is taken. Here, then, is the formula to prevent conflict: Don’t give offense; don’t invite offense; don’t take offense.”
When I live by this formula, life is simple and peaceful. And when I do not, life is stressful, and I feel an inner war inside which haunts me.
When I wait before I speak as I did with Anna, I typically can hear a kind of radio playing in my head with those negative thoughts. But when I’m calm and replay those thoughts, I can see that I have taken offense and then told myself these things to put the blame on someone else, like Anna. I can see the untruth in them. Anna does not always say something negative and try to prove she’s right. But if I continue to believe these thoughts, I allow the fight to continue in me.
So, the truth is, I am the one who can stop these thoughts – and the fight.