The Fine Art of Not Being Offended

By Shemsi Prinzivalli on Tuesday August 15th, 2017

Nothing is Personal

There is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness which the Great Ones have known for centuries. They rarely speak of it, but they use it all the time, and it is fundamental to good mental health. This secret is called The Fine Art of Not Being Offended. In order to truly be a master of this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life experience to date.

In other words, the majority of people in our world say and do what they do from their own set of fears, conclusions, defences and attempts to survive. Most of it, even when aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. Usually, it has more to do with all the other times, and in particular the first few times, that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they were young.

Study of the Soul

Yes, this is psychodynamic. But let’s face it, we live in a world where psychodynamics are what make the world go around. An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a spiritual person really needs to understand that psychology is as spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means ‘the study of the soul’.

Sum total of our life experienceEvery statement, action and reaction is the result of our total life experience to date.

All of that said, almost nothing is personal. Even with our closest loved ones, our beloved partners, our children and our friends. We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other’s life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions. This is not to dehumanize life or take away the intimacy from our relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding.

Are They Hurting?

A true embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we are just the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing—we don’t have to take life personally. If it weren’t us, it would likely be someone else.

This frees us to be a little more detached from the reactions of people around us. How often do we react to a statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the other might actually be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering—even if they themselves do not appear that way on the surface.

Are they hurting?Getting offended is an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering.

All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering. When we provide no velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world. We do not even have to say a thing. In fact, it is usually better not to say a thing.

People who are suffering on the inside, but not showing it on the outside, are usually not keen on someone pointing out to them that they are suffering. We do not have to be our loved one’s therapist. We need only understand the situation and move on. In the least, we ourselves experience less suffering and at best, we have a chance to make the world a better place.

No Harm to Self

This is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt, neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm to ourselves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a magical thing happens. Many of the seeming abusers of the world start to leave our lives. Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying.

Nothing is personalWe don’t feel abused because we know that what the other is saying is not about us.

When we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. We can say, “Thank you for sharing,” and move on. We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us. When we know that our inherent worth is not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously. And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating more misery for ourselves or having to convince the other person that we are good and worthy people.

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 the many skills for being a practical mystic. Though it may take a lifetime of practice, it is truly one of the best kept secrets for living a happy life.

Words By Shemsi Prinzivalli

Originally posted on Shemsi Prinzivalli, Practical Spirituality: Living in the Modern World




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34 Responses to The Fine Art of Not Being Offended

  1. the discord server that i have been a member of for at least 3 years is founded on this principle of not getting offended and of tolerenace, and we literally discuss the most important topics everyday,

    we basically talk about the things that the senate and the house of representatives SHOULD be debating but don’t and we are just a bunch of amateurs!, here is the link


  2. Great article.. well written.. feel backs are opening as well.. love to hear more!
    When it comes to feelings and someone entering my space the radar senses turn on.. I am nice and polite is my reaction.. then I say thank you for sharing.. ending with something positive and than walk away.. my feeling are stuns.. I spend countless hours trying to figure out and never can understand why some have bad behaviors… then I remind myself why we have the serenity prayer..

  3. A good article but I fear it deals only with one aspect of taking offense: when someone is trying to deliberating offend. Another aspect, and more usual, is when we are offended because we are found to be wrong. Both these feelings arise from a perceived attack on the ego’s sense of self and I’m surprised that the writer did not include anything about ego in the article. I suggest that only the ego can cause offense and only the ego can be offended. When we are actively aware of the presence of the True Self, and that awareness controls our interactions, it is difficult to be offended. (Richard Rohr is very good on this).

  4. I thought abuse happened because another person has power and control over you. They then choose how to behave in a certain way toward you?

  5. This is why my vocabulary has become so minimal in my current relationship. I choose not to speak to someone who is sarcastic or argumentative. I know that they could give two shits about the topic I’m talking about, truly, so why even join the discussion?!! Just to hear yourself speak? Narcissistic much… I’m trying to not take things personal, but why do I have to do all the work while they’re free to say whatever the hell they want without consequence?

    • Perhaps the part you do have control over is staying in the relationship. If it’s one you have to stay in (like you’re a parent and it’s your child that’s horrid to you) then your choice to not be offended is still there. But you also are responsible for helping the child with whatever is causing him/her to treat you that way

  6. The problem I have with this is that if we detach ourselves in the way the article suggests we not only let all the negative comments roll off our back, we let the positive ones roll off too. If we assume nothing is personal then we basically live our lives always above the fray, not engaging in emotional interaction of any kind.

    Fully engaging with life is a risk. Unless we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we’re cheating, because we ask that others become vulnerable to us. Sometimes people say unpleasant things because the other person needs to hear them. I am grateful for the times people have called me on things I was doing that were hurtful. That’s a kind of compliment; it means my participation in humanity matters and is being acknowledged. And if someone says something that is denigrating of a characteristic they have that is out of their control, a trait they were born with, then it’s our duty to be offended and to give a voice not only for myself but on behalf of others who could be hurt by this person’s rudeness and insensitivity.

    The more I think about the premise of this article the more offended I get. You’re basically telling people to let the bullies win. And you’re telling people that none of us should dirty our hands with the messy work of true human interaction.

    • Well, I think cheating and letting emotions roll off your back isn’t exactly what the author meant. You still may be angry and even furious when somebody is mean but you just don’t take it personally and don’t become offended. In fact, you can counter a bully way better without becoming offended. Your head works better when you don’t see other person’s actions as a personal offence. You can better understand their motives and counter them with logic even when you are mad at them. On contrary, when you feel offended and take others’ actions as a personal affront, your reason is clouded and the confrontation may only result in a shouting competition where nobody neither hears nor understands what the other is saying. Not taking things personally also doesnt mean you can’t shout out loudly. Sure you can and sometimes should but with a brain that is not clouded with your offended ego.

  7. I have a very serious situation taking things very personal, and I was telling my daughter I have to do something so I don’t take it so personal the things this person tells me, because after the fact I get very upset and in a rage. then I get very very sick. So I come home jump in my computer and here it is I read this article and it’s pointing at me. makes all the sense in the world to me. And I say thank you I will start putting this in practice.

  8. So, when you ARE the target, it is not personal? Haha. When others have access & you are denied, it is not personal? You talk in generalities, and we live in personal space.

  9. This is the best if practiced. Its the real fact, people have been hurt before, others grew up in the same conditions they create for others. To the other person its hard when it would have been so simple for the person if he or she realized that its not about him or her. Thanks to the author.

  10. I’m curious about the part that says we are a stand in. What are we a stand in for, perhaps therapy or counseling? Just curious! Otherwise, an outstanding and thought provoking article.

  11. Beautiful… now I wait for the article on the fine art of not being flattered! It might seem less important but is actually the other side of the coin in my opinion. Is also not personal. The point is that it could be even harder cause being offended is painful so easier to give up, but being flattered is pleasant, at a first look it seems less danger, but I think it hides also spikes. When I’m flattered I give my ego nutrition, obviously we can still recognise our merits and be happy about it, but is a thin line and we immediately create a personal story around it, that barley and rarely will lead to something positive for us and others. “I did this, I am so good because… bla bla bla” go back to sleep you sneaky bastard let me enjoy my existence! Equanimity is the practice… Vipassana has a lot to do with this optic. Anyway… should I write the article ? Mamma mia… bless of love

    • Well…. I have to agree with Alberto..☺ I am very weak in face of people that are flattering me. I have a BIG Ego and yes, I am very affected by flatters… To often I let myself being manipulated by peoples that flatters me. I know that most of them they do that because they are afraid that I would say no and without wanting to be manipulative, they flatters me…☺

  12. This is the reality of most situation. To understand every action does not deserve a reaction. People have to understand themselves in order to perserve their reactions to others actions.I think this is a very helpful article.

    • What about livibg with someone who has no selfreflection at all, someone who is convinced that the other is allways wrong and he is allways right (and really says it loud and clear that he is allways right)?

      • Establishing a fair two way communication about w.e is basically the basis for any type of human coexistence to work. Sadly, that’s a dictator.. emphasis on the “dic”

      • Establishing a fair two way communication about w.e is basically the basis for any type of human coexistence to work. Sadly, that’s a dictator.. emphasis on the “dic”

      • As others have mentioned, the “always right person” is a narcissist. I’ve been married to one for 30 years. Fortunately I was older when I got married and well past the point of concerning myself with narcissistic opinions. He can argue all night with himself filling in his response for what he thinks I should/would say if I thought like he did. I just go about my business without engaging. Once he runs out of steam then we pursue one of the many fun interests we share. I understand that is just the way he is and I can’t change him.

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