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How dare you? - The importance of being offended

Aggiornamento: 24 set 2022

How many countless times have we felt offended throughout our lives?

"You are lazy, you should move more."

"You complain about everything, you are so hard to get along with."

"Stop taking everything so personally."

It takes just one offhanded comment, remark, or utterance to drastically change our mood. Our muscles contract, our eyebrows frown into a knit, and our blood boils with venomous pungency.

There could be a multitude of reasons: the person who has offended us cannot see and understand us in a real sense. Or maybe they even got it right, but the annoyance in being called out for it felt at that moment leads us to ask the same thing over and over again - “how dare you?”

When we feel offended, we perceive that the imaginary line that divides us and others has been crossed. In those moments, everything seems clear: I am in the right, and this person has just disrespected me.

To be fair, this is precisely what happens most of the time. Yet what makes it more complicated is that we often miss the reason why that line was so insurmountable in our own eyes.

Anger and annoyance make everything cloudy and extremely confusing. Was that person just trying to offend our dignity? Or is there something that we are missing about ourselves, caught up in our day to day lives? And as for those who offended us, did they have good intentions, or did they simply need to pour out their anger on someone to make themselves feel better? In either case, what is behind that comment?

Even though it is extremely annoying, the feeling of being offended tends to be underestimated. That indignation, however unbearable, loosens the distance and opens a door to the intimacy of both the offender and the one who is offended.

For example, if you find the courage to look deeper, you may realize you tend to point your finger at others’ laziness because deep down that personal trait represents something intolerable about yourself. Or, in the case we received the offensive rebuke, we might get angry because we recognize ourselves though the comment's meaning, and once again we have been reminded how we are not proud of ourselves at all.

The strength of the emotions we feel often overwhelms us and holds us back from exploring our emotions and feelings profoundly. However, if we find the strength to set aside our pride, resentment, and the complex web of feelings that hits us every time we offend and/or feel offended, we can take a moment for ourselves and observe the scene objectively, reinterpreting the initial question from "how dare you" to "what can we learn from this?"

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