Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Deal With Offense and Contention

It has been my experience that when people get offended it is due to a misunderstanding or miscommunication.  Also, when we face strife and contention pride is a major component.  If we can learn to exercise patience and humility, if we strive to harbor understanding, then we can leave behind much of the pain, suffering, and sorrow of our day-to-day lives.

This post will focus on offense, but the principles are universal and can help us with contention as well.
I've given quite some thought to this.  More than that, I've tried to apply certain principles to my own life.  Mainly I ask myself some questions at times when I could be possibly offended.  Usually the result is that I come up with several harmless alternatives for the reasons behind the offense.  I can forgive the possible fault and move on.  Often in the course of this I experience a moment of wry humor in the recognition of what I like to call the "human condition."  Basically, we are all human and thus we are all prone to mistakes.

We've all said or done something that we've regretted. Or we said or did it in a way that didn't convey our intentions as well as we would have liked.  What one person may consider an unpardonable slip in speech or action may be a weakness of another.  Also simple differences in our nurture and our environment instill in us differences of opinion and expression.  Misunderstanding comes quickly when we assume that we  know the thoughts behind a person's words or deeds and that our judgement is perfect.  Simply remembering that there may be more behind an action--things that we do not or cannot see, or a simple mistake--should be enough to help us pause.

When we pause in our judgements, let us use a few simple mechanisms to evaluate the perceived offense.  These mechanisms, expressed in writing, take the form of a list of questions.  However, by force of time and habit they become more a part of our character than an external checklist.
  • First, could I see myself making the same statements or doing the same thing under any conceivable set of situations, even those beyond what I have experienced myself?
  • Now, what are some other possible explanations for the offending act or word?
  • Is this simply a case where the person could not find a better way to express themselves?  Or did they perhaps forget the expression that they wanted and had to make due with a less-effective substitute?
  • Has the potential offender ever been in this situation before?  Could that affect how they might act?  Could that affect the possibility of being misunderstood and giving offense?
  • Did I expect the person to be offensive in that way? And do I really, honestly think that they were intending to be offensive?
  • Have I ever been misunderstood?
  • Have I ever inadvertently given offense?
  • And, not least of all, does it really matter?
  • Is it worth getting offended over?
  • Is it worth a reaction on my part?
  • Would it be beneficial take up a defense, to criticize, or to correct in response?
  • Is there another, more appropriate response that I could give, rather than to become offended?
  • Basically, what is the truth behind the statement or action?  Was the truth spoken?  Am I the one at fault for being out of line with the truth?
Premeditation on how to avoid or prevent offense and on how to promote understanding is also worthwhile.  How can I make sure that I don't get offended? (Whether or not offense was meant to be taken.)  What can I do when I do feel offended?  Why do I usually get offended?  What are some causes of offense in general?

My answer to that last question is where I started this blog.  Misunderstanding and pride.  The same approach applies perfectly to resolving both misunderstanding and pride:  What led to the conflict?  Was it meant that way?  Is it worth it?  Am I in opposition to the truth?

There is a principle of humility and meekness in the ongoing effort to evaluate and understand offenses and contention.  This is especially true when we are willing to ask "Am I at fault?" and to confess, if only to ourselves, our own guilt.  Since humility and meekness are opposite of pride and unbridled passion, then as we cultivate the former the latter will fade.

Of use may be an address given by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin entitled "Come What May and Love It."  He applies a set of principles to enduring trials in life.  The same can be used in the context of what we have been discussing here.  Portions of the address were used to create the following video which highlights the main points.

No comments:

Post a Comment