When I was growing up, my mom strategically taped clippings from Church magazines or pictures from FHE lessons on the shelf just above the kitchen sink. Because we all spent a lot of time at the kitchen sink doing the dishes, we would see these clippings day after day for years.
I can still see the picture of two menacing looking eyes peering from an elephant’s footprint reminding us of Elder Boyd K. Packers talk about spiritual crocodiles. One of the other small, hand-drawn papers that hung from that shelf for years was the saying:
“You cannot be offended unless you choose to be offended.”
That quote came from a lesson my mom taught because as children we found it so easy to be offended by the actions or words of our siblings. My mom explained that while being purposely offensive was wrong, being overly willing to be offended also contributed to the lack of harmony in our home. This sentiment has scriptural precedent.
How often were offensive comments, looks, and rude actions hurled at Jesus? He had every reason to be offended. Yet He taught the concept of turning the other cheek even when we have no fault in the matter.
I bring this up because the third piece of advice given to my friend Leslie was to work towards not being hyper-sensitive.
As I have stated, Leslie’s descent into her abyss of self-harm and serious eating disorders came from a life in the extremes. She too easily allowed the culture to define who she should be. Her family life, instead of being a refuge from the storm, became the storm itself. As a result of these two destructive forces, her self-esteem was obliterated.
The natural result was to see and hear conspiracy around every corner. If anyone told her she looked good, she convinced herself that comment was insincere. If she entered a room where people were laughing, she instantly assumed they were talking about her. If there was a comment in class or at Church regarding food or weight, she took instant offense and retreated from people she assumed hated her.
After years of being so easily offended, Leslie was convinced that everyone was talking about her and hated her. This is why her therapist explained that one of her pathways to a cure was to stop being hyper-sensitive. True, people can be cruel. But Leslie needed to find ways to disallow the real or imagined judgments of others to impact her self-esteem.
While this is Leslie’s story, I have been focusing on it because I feel there are lessons here from which we all can learn. Do we struggle with the problem of being too easily offended? Do we allow the comments, facial expressions, and real or imagined shunning of others to control our lives?
What are some suggestions you have to help us each avoid too easily choosing to be offended? I suggest a review of Elder Bednar’s 2006 General Conference talk about how to avoid being offended.
I look forward to your comments.