You’d think with a blog called “The Grumpy Contemplative” that I wouldn’t be worried about offending people, but I’m actually a recovering people-pleaser, so one of my hangups in life is that I always want people to like me. The grumpy façade is just my way of faking it until I make it, so to speak. In reality, I know that people sometimes take offense at what I say, do, or believe–I know, because people sometimes tell me, to my face, or via passive-aggressive notes or emails.
It seems like people get offended a lot. And I don’t mean in a “kids these days are too sensitive” kind of way. I mean, it seems that people sometimes go looking to get offended, and some people are at the height of their personal glory when they can stomp around and tell all of us just what it is that’s gotten them upset this time around. Take, for example, Fred–a guy I know (he’s not real)–he gets offended on a regular basis when people go about their business being themselves, especially if they’re not Christian, or if they identify as LGBTQ+, or if they’re anyone other than Fred himself. C’mon, you know a Fred, too, don’t you? Of course you do. Sometimes I find myself being Fred–especially when the guy with the loud truck exhaust system peels down my street when I’m trying to meditate or pray. That guy really brings out the Fred in me, and I can imagine him doing all sorts of mean things, like kicking puppies or tripping old ladies by stealing their walkers.
Why do we get offended? What makes us shake our fists and say, “Oh, those….” (choose your least favorite group of people)?
I think it’s because so many of us aren’t deeply rooted enough. Either our own spiritual, mental, philosophical, or intellectual roots are too shallow, or they’ve not been cared for and the soil that’s keeping us from blowing away has eroded out from under them. I have found that the more deeply rooted I am in my own beliefs, practices, and traditions, the less likely I am to be offended by others’ beliefs, practices, and traditions. Being deeply rooted gives me a frame of reference from which to begin, and grounds me in something that is bigger than myself, so that I can focus on the humanity of the Other, rather than taking offense at their “otherness.”
So next time you feel yourself getting offended by someone else’s breathing, take a moment to ground yourself in your own breath, and go deeper into your own beliefs than you ever have before. You MIGHT just find something there that can root you so deeply that you aren’t worried that someone else is going to cause your beliefs to slip away, and you might actually enjoy getting to know them and what it is they believe.
Your mileage may vary, but I know what works for me.