Taking Offense

“Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it – what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.”

~Carlos Castaneda

Why are we so easily offended by others? When investigated, that particular form of our habitual reactivity appears to be at the root of most of our problems as humans interacting with each other in this world, at this time, and perhaps it has chronically been so.

It took me a long time, and some hard knocks, before I came to realize that my own provisional experience (and the conditioned interpretations thereof) did not necessarily apply to others, and thus I had no real reason to be upset by differing views on reality. This sounds like it would be obvious, but it was quite a revelation to me, and I see that the misconception I was under is a common one among humans, and leads to a lot of unwarranted judgmentalism and conflict.

For example, someone has a vision of Jesus, and so they become convinced that Christianity is the only way, and all other religious approaches are inferior and less true. Meanwhile, another believes they have received a message from Allah, and concludes that Islam is the right path, and based on their conventional filters, that all others are infidels. That’s a simplistic example, of course, but serves to illustrate the principle.

Once we come to recognize that the world we have been conditioned and programmed to perceive as an objective, solid reality is in fact utterly subjective — a projection of mind — then we can begin to be more tolerant and accepting of others’ experiences and insights that might appear to contradict our own (based on our own idiosyncratic interpretations on perception), and so attain to a more mature and authentic humility.

What we may begin to notice, within that humility, is that those who are grateful get more to be grateful for, whereas those who are quick to take offense, who complain and are never happy, get more to complain and never be happy about. Indeed, one of the biggest lessons we can learn during our time here is that gratitude is a powerful antidote to the emotional contraction at the heart which so many of us carry around inside us.

Furthermore, there is another aspect to the chronic sense of offense, insult, or even victimhood that we can investigate. That is, who or what is actually being targeted, who or what is fixated on the solidity of that self-sense which in turn is subject to being offended or insulted? When we begin to peel back the layers of attitudes that we were taught, inspecting the validity of the preconceptions about ourselves that were conditioned like software programs into our being, and really try to discover the one at the center or matrix of perception, we cannot find such a one.

There is nobody there. No victim, no offended one, no separate and enduring person whatsoever has ever existed – just a bundle of thoughts, memories, sensations, and perceptions with no center or landing place. What we have been doing all along is merely stringing them together on an imaginary clothesline called “I”, and pretending the result amounts to a “person”, a “me”, a (threatened) identity.

All along, we have been habituated to taking everything personally, imagining that we are the “target”, but once we have thoroughly examined our assumptions about identity, we begin to recognize that our very sense of self – the one who is supposedly offended – is in reality nothing but a compounded fantasy story which we have been telling ourselves.

Just so, when we stop and ask, “Is it true?” Our answer will have to be “No” — we have been playing the role of a fictional character constructed from bits of hearsay and imagination, and presuming it to be who we are, but when the spotlight of true inquiry is shone on it, it evaporates, just like the characters in last night’s dream. Poof!

Indeed, realizing directly the emptiness of the personal story can be critical in getting over our sense of offense, but what we need most to remember is that love is all that truly matters – not our presumptive knowledge, our opinions and beliefs, our accomplishments, or our conditional biases.

The only way we can make a genuine contribution to the human condition in this realm is by increasing unconditional love in our lives. If we are committed to raising the vibratory frequency in our relationships and environments, giving love unselfishly is the way, even when it appears that others might not notice or appreciate it.

What helps in actualizing this commitment is remaining open at the heart, refraining from judging others’ experiences and understandings, forgiving everybody everything forever, and recognizing that even the highest human concepts of wisdom are no more than bits of fluff blown about in the vast unknown.

Moreover, unless we as a collective are able to awaken from the illusion of our separateness and come to at least some basic recognition of our essential oneness — soon — we may well not survive as a civilization. The stakes are much higher now, and the reactivity which persists in divisiveness and all manner of being offended (rather religious, political, or social) either has or shortly will have at its disposal weapons of global destruction.

In any case, it starts in our own hearts, and from there it will radiate – either love or fear. Which will we choose?

“The next time you go out in the world, you might try this practice: directing your attention to people—in their cars, on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones—just wish for them all to be happy and well. Without knowing anything about them, they can become very real, by regarding each of them personally and rejoicing in the comforts and pleasures that come their way. Each of us has this soft spot: a capacity for love and tenderness. But if we don’t encourage it, we can get pretty stubborn about remaining sour.”

~Pema Chodron

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About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have several other sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: https://westernmystics.wordpress.com/ Free Transliterations of Spiritual Texts: http://freetransliterations1.blogspot.com/ Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: https://spiritguidesparrow.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
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8 Responses to Taking Offense

  1. Michael says:

    Think about it, someone weakens us, they are an enemy from the other side of life, set free from it’s prison, interacting in the human world. My belief is that it’s an unknown frequency we don’t notice, but we feel it as a Delusional Identity snatching our power, feeding off of us, from birth to death, are our owners, they have us, they control us. Why complain or take offense? it is of the highest human wisdom. This unknown Existence has Mastered it. Seems obvious to me, and I’m never happy about it.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Hi Michael,
      There are many who believe as you do, and in fact the human notions of angels and devils at war for our souls is one common cultural-religious manifestation of that concept. Another view is that we are always being tested, to see whether or not we will “do the right thing”, and that those who are doing the testing are part of our soul family, the more advanced members, who are helping us to evolve in awareness, like teachers.
      Another view, espoused by folks like Carlos Castaneda (through his literary character Don Juan Matus), is that there are beings he calls “Flyers”, who fulfill the role you describe, controlling us. He explains that the sages use the discipline of silence to cast off their influence. I mention that in my essay here:
      https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/the-discipline-of-silence/

      Blessings!

  2. “Once we come to recognize that the world we have been conditioned and programmed to perceive as an objective, solid reality is in fact utterly subjective — a projection of mind — then we can begin to be more tolerant and accepting of others’ experiences and insights that might appear to contradict our own (based on our own idiosyncratic interpretations on perception), and so attain to a more mature and authentic humility.”

    Beautifully stated Bob.

    We all share a common external (objective) reality, but each of us has our own unique aperture, or point of view that I would call our unique internal (subjective) reality. I like to explain this to my design students with a short story;

    We are both of us sitting on the beach when we see a man walking straight toward us. Based on my prior experience I recognize him as an old friend and neighbor. Based on your prior experience you see him as a large Hispanic stranger dressed in a hoodie with his hands suspiciously hidden within his jacket.

    Our shared external reality is precisely the same, but our internal realities are completely different. Based on these two different internal realities, our physical, mental and emotional responses are going to be entirely different and the outcome of the exact same external event will most likely be entirely different.

    I am always surprised by the number of students who object to this simple fact. We become very invested in our subjective internal reality and often become very defensive when it is demonstrated to be nothing other than a projection of our mind.

  3. Bob OHearn says:

    “The art of not being offended

    The great challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. The fine art of not being offended is one of many options for being a practical mystic. Yet I suspect it is the task of a lifetime. It certainly is for me.”

    ~Jodi Shams Prinzivalli

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