I’ve written a lot of words in my day, and I have unintentionally hurt many women with them, and it breaks my heart every single time.
Someone recently posted something about me on social media in response to something I had written, and I was hurt, immediately. And humiliated. And felt instant shame. And I wrote a response. A defensive response. Which provoked more responses. Which hurt me more. And so I had to stop reading and try to move on.
I contacted the editor of the website where my provocative article was posted and asked her to take it down after a few hours. She wrote back, ‘If you’re going to write for the internet, you’re going to need a thicker skin. Don’t let the few that say the negative things stop you from sharing with the majority that need what you have to say. You’re a good writer. I’m not taking it down.” (Well, okay then.)
A friend was sharing with me how she had picked up a book called Unoffendable. She said that she hadn’t had a chance to read it yet, but just the title had stuck with her and she was working on not jumping to conclusions so quickly about other people’s motives, taking the long view, and letting things go more easily.
Some thoughts on how to not be so easily offended, spoken as much as to myself as to you today, my friend:
Not everything is about you. The number of times that I read a friend’s post and wonder, ‘Is that about me???’ and start to worry that I’ve done something wrong is off the charts. I think it’s safe to say that 99 times out of 100, that post isn’t about me. And if it is, that person should be talking to me about it IRL and until she does, there’s nothing I can do about it. Plus, just the fact that I assume that is a bit self-absorbed. I need to work on this. Plus, let’s just say a comment is targeted at you or someone outright says something to hurt you, realize that there is always so much more going on behind the scenes in someone’s life than you know, so even if you’re on the receiving end of something painful, even then, it truly might not be about you but about what that person is going through.
Read a quote in context. Sometimes I read one sentence that an author wrote and I want to toss out the baby with the bathwater. But if only I were to dig a little deeper, I could better understand where this person is coming from.
Give the benefit of the doubt. I think it’s safe to say that most of the time, most of the people in the world aren’t out to get you, out to shame you, out to hurt you. Especially if it’s someone you love who loves you.
Take history into account. Someone recently accused a friend of something, something completely uncharacteristic of her. And had that other person taken a look back at who that person was, they would have known that the accusation was false, and they would have known the other person’s heart. Believing the best about someone you trust is a good place to start.
If you’re not sure, ask for clarification. Gently. Don’t go after the person, don’t belittle them, and don’t do so publicly. Contact them privately and ask what you need to ask. If you’re still unsatisfied with the answer…
Let it go and move forward. We’re just not going to agree with everyone and everyone isn’t going to agree with us. And we’re not going to get along with everyone and everyone isn’t going to get along with us. And sometimes, it’s okay to hold your tongue, and sometimes it’s okay to admit that you’re wrong. And sometimes it’s okay to move forward without closure, as hard as that can feel.
Choose your battles, especially publicly. Don’t burn bridges. Being kind always wins over being right.