Life is not that deep: the art of taking offences without taking offence

Nana Boatemaa offers a nine step guide to finding inner peace even when wounded by others.

Have you ever felt really disappointed? Like when you had expectations about something or someone, and they somehow managed to let you down?

Well I’m here to tell you today that “Life is not that deep”, as a friend of mine always says.

“You don’t know how badly that person hurt me.”         

True, but I do know that everyone has the capability of disappointing in one way or another at any point in time. If we really sat down and thought about it, we’d see that we’ve probably hurt or disappointed someone before too, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults…”, the Good Book says.

The first time I saw this verse, I thought “What?! How can I make room for another person’s fault? Doesn’t that mean I’m lowering my expectations?”

However, with time it became clear to me that one of the best ways to live a peaceful life is to learn to make room for others’ faults. If we gave everyone a little wiggle room, remembering that everyone is fallible, we wouldn’t be so disappointed when they do (or don’t do) certain things. Making this an intentional habit actually gives us peace of mind and brings us to the realization that really, “Life is really not that deep”.

When you’re offended:

1.  Give yourself time

Remember that song? “First fool, no be fool, second fool, no be fool, but third fool, na in e be fool!”

To fall for the same thing twice or even three times can really hurt; but we need to learn to give ourselves the space to heal properly, instead of berating ourselves for being “fools” for having given that person the chance to offend us. Healing takes time…for some it takes days, others months, others even years! Go easy on yourself. Your heart deserves it. And nurturing a grudge will only make you a bigger fool!

2. Do not speak immediately….

You may end up saying something you’ll regret. Thank God for “delete features” on messenger apps, but words spoken in anger cannot be retracted as easily. We therefore need to be “quick to hear” (be a careful, thoughtful listener), “slow to speak” (a speaker of carefully chosen words) “and slow to anger” (patient, reflective, forgiving), as the Bible puts it.

Believe me, when the cloud of your anger clears, you’ll realize you don’t even want to say what you had planned to say anymore, and that what you were going to say in response was actually meant to hurt the person back, not solve the problem.

3. Write down how you feel (if you like to write)

It can be so therapeutic! Imagine yelling at someone who offended you, but this time you’re writing it down instead. The great thing about this is that, after writing it, we can easily tear it up and throw it away. You’ll feel so much better afterwards, and it takes away the urge to even tell others about it. Plus, it gives you some clarity to process your feelings and perhaps also identify where you may have gone wrong.

4.  Be careful who you confide in

Back to the Bible (this time the Old Testament book of Proverbs): “He who covers and forgives offense seeks love, but he who repeats or gossips about a matter separates intimate friends.”

We’ve all been guilty of this…telling other people when someone offends us. But we really need to be careful when we do so…because whereas we may later forgive the person who wronged us, those we confide in have the tendency of forming their own impression about the offender, which may in turn taint their sense of judgement towards them.

5. Pray

Some offences have a way of pushing us into a corner, leaving us all by ourselves with our wounds. Though difficult, that may be one of the best times to pray. It does not have to be a lengthy prayer….just a heartfelt one telling God how we feel…sometimes the prayers may come out as tears instead. Even though we might not hear from God at that moment, we’ll be shocked to discover the kind of peace we’ll feel after venting our feelings to Him. He clears our heads to know what to do next.

6.  Refuse to have a victim mentality

Self-pity is one of the easiest ways we give the enemy room to play with our minds and isolate us. “I’ll never be good enough.” “Nobody likes me.” “It was all my fault.” “I won’t love again.”

Seeing ourselves as the victim makes us bitter, not better. Don’t allow that offence to turn you into something you’re not. By all means learn from it, but don’t let it define who you are. Whether you want to believe it or not, that person you’re so busily moping over may not even be thinking about you this very second. Don’t belittle your feelings, but at the same time do not make mountains out of molehills.

7.  Shift your focus

We’ll never be able to heal if we keep replaying the situation in our minds. Why put ourselves through all that misery going over the offence when we could spend the energy of our hearts and minds on something else? There will be times people will hurt us….times when they’ll do things we did not expect. But what makes all the difference is how we respond. While we might be spending all our time mulling over how that sister or brother offended us, they may be busy with their lives, completely unaware that they have wronged us.

Coming to the realization that human beings will never disappoint in disappointing is a realistic perspective that will help us overcome even the greatest of hurts. We have the power to choose what to focus on. Trust me, the more you focus on others’ faults and how they hurt you, the bigger their faults become. What if, instead of constantly churning that situation over in our minds, we shifted our focus to more positive stuff? No matter how bad anyone may seem, everyone has at least a few good things about them. It is surprising what we might notice if we actually took the time to focus on people’s strengths instead of magnifying their weaknesses.

8.  Communicate

If you can, do so…but only when you have calmed down. Not every offence needs to be rehashed…it could be something minor. However if you realize it’s something the person keeps doing, you may need to find a constructive, even jovial, way of telling the person how that action makes you feel, and what can be done about it. When we find the best way to communicate, it brings about a lasting change. It’ll surprise you that sometimes the “offender” does not even know what they did offended us, until we let them know… It is always better to say things calmly to someone’s face than to talk about it behind their back. But remember too: how we say it makes all the difference.

9.  Forgive

Forgiveness has a way of liberating us and giving our hearts room to love and grow. Contrary to the popular term “forgive and forget”, forgiving doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with forgetting. We choose to forget. The mind is a huge chamber of memories; some good, some bad. Not forgetting does not mean we haven’t forgiven. But once we come to the realization that “it’s not that deep”, it’s easier to allow the unpleasant memories to fade away and become a thing we learn from to make us better people. This by no means implies that forgiving or letting go is a walk in the park, but it is possible, particularly helped by prayer, in which we might even need to ask for the grace to forgive. And it liberates not only the person who offended us, but us as well.

Above all else, as the Bible also says: “Guard your heart.” Know what (and who) to let in and what to let go of. Prioritize the well-being of your heart…”for everything you do flows from it.” 

And remember, “it’s not that deep!”

This is a slightly edited version of a post from Nana’s blog, CHANGING THE STATUS QUO….ONE POST AT A TIME 🙂

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Nana Boatemaa is a young Christian lady who loves to write and is passionate about young people and purpose. She holds a Bsc. Degree in Marketing from the University of Ghana, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations at the University of Leeds. She loves to get involved in initiatives that make a difference, such as reading drives and counselling.

One Comment

  • Tamiflu

    We should remember, however, that offence can be taken even when it has not been given. There are radical feminists who search every innocent remark about women for the hidden sexist agenda. Even using the masculine pronoun in the grammatically sanctioned way, so as to refer indifferently to men and women, can cause offence and is now being banned on campuses all across America. It is not that you wish to give offence. But you are up against people who are expert in taking it, who have cultivated the art of taking offence over many years, and who are never more delighted than when some innocent man falls into the trap of speaking incorrectly.

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