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Monday, February 24, 2014

Taking Offense?

I saw a post in my Google Plus stream yesterday, from a lady by the name of Jayme, that reminded me of a conversation that my friend Marie and I had a couple of months ago. It was a few days after my stay in the hospital last December, so it was about a week before Christmas. I was excited to be out and about instead of laying around at home trying to recover from being sick, and I think that Marie was glad to see me looking a bit better than I had a few days before. We covered all sorts of subjects during the course of our lunch, including Christmas shopping. I informed her that we were excited about the gift we had gotten her, and told her what we had gotten for Thayne, her husband.

Marie thought of something she had experienced that really troubled her. She had spent some time on social media in the previous day or two and had been really shocked at the online behavior of one of her friends from back in high school. This friend, whom I shall call Missy since I don't know her name, was talking about having a visit from a new neighbor. Missy said that her new neighbor seemed like a very nice person and that they had had a very pleasant visit. She added that when the neighbor left, she said, "Have a blessed day!" and went on her way. Well, Missy went on quite a tirade about how disgusted she was, and why does everything have to be about religion, and on and on and on. She was thoroughly disgusted and offended, and she wanted everyone to know about it.

Marie was stunned. She said that she had never known Missy to be like that, ranting about something so relatively innocent. Let's face it, it's not like the neighbor gave Missy a lecture about her faith, or tried to shove anything down her throat. She didn't threaten brimstone or the fires of Hades. Heck, she didn't even actually mention a Supreme Being. In defense of my last statement, I have known many people to say things about being blessed, and known they were not using the statement in a faith-based manner. It just meant that they were fortunate to have good of some sort in their lives.

This made me observe that I have noticed that some people seem to be primed to take offense. And that is why Jayme's post reminded me of our conversation. Jayme observed that a lot of people seemed to be cranky that day, and getting mad at just about everything. This, of course, made me think of my Gram. She would say that those people needed to scratch their mad place and get glad again. Jayme said that her Grandpa would have said that they were looking for a fight and that they had a chip on their shoulder.

So where is all of this anger coming from? I will freely admit that I have days when I feel less than social. I have cranky times. Some might claim that I am only cranky about 360 days out of the year, but it may be as many as 365. My point, however jokingly made, is that we aren't always at our best, and we aren't always in the frame of mind to be all sunshine and lollipops. That's when we need to show some restraint and maybe avoid things like social media. If we are cranky, why look for  reasons to be crankier? Also, I've noticed that the invisibility of the internet seems to make some people feel that it is okay to say anything at all, whether it be rude, or disgustingly foul, or nasty, or whatever. I try to treat people the same way online that I would in person. If I am talking face to face and someone says something I find outrageous, I am not going to say something like, "You are stupid and you should die." So I don't say that online, either. I either tell them that I disagree, or simply decide that arguing is just not worth my time or energy.

But back to taking offense to things so very quickly. Where did this come from? I know that the world is full of all kinds of people with all sorts of different beliefs and motivations. But do we have to get in a twist about it? We don't have any control over what others say or think, but we can control how we react to it. Marie and I were wistfully remembering when we were kids. Some of the people we encountered may not have celebrated the same holidays that we did. But if they wished us a happy whatever holiday it was, for example, we thanked them and went on about our business. 

I saw a fabulous post shared by Thom that was a flowchart on how to respond to holiday greetings. It included all sorts of holiday greetings, and went sort of like this: If someone wishes you a Happy Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Christmas/? and you are Christian/Jewish/Muslim/whatever, this is how to respond...and all of them ended up with simply saying thank you. What's so difficult about that? Is it really necessary to attack a person and say that you don't believe in what they believe, and that they shouldn't either? Perhaps if as much energy was invested in getting along and understanding one another, or even tolerating some of our differences, we'd all feel a lot better. Maybe instead of taking offense, we should tear down the fences that we build around our hearts to prevent others from getting in. 

Well, I guess I've gone on quite a bit with my Ravings tonight. In spite of all of our differences, we are basically the same. We all want shelter, food, love, happiness. But the things that make us all individuals make life more interesting, if we allow them to do so. Hey, what would life be like if all of the ice cream and cookies and proteins and veggies and breads were the same flavor? Sort of dull, right? Same with people. If we were all the same, we'd have nothing to talk about, or argue about, or be offended about. And we are very likely as humans to be offended or pleased or bored from time to time. But maybe we can work on not looking for things to be angry about. One can only hope.