A while ago, I posted this on Instagram: I am unoffendable.
I am unoffendable because I am the one who decides whether or not to feel offended. I sometimes might misinterpret and believe somebody is intending to offend me when they really aren’t. And other times, people are indeed trying to offend me. But that’s their problem and I don’t need to rise to the bait (Please note, I am not talking about physical violence!!!). I decide what meaning I attach to things.
At the end of February, Tiny Buddha republished the article I had written for them (8 things I learned from watching my mum die) via their facebook page. I stumbled across it by chance a few days after it had been published. I checked out the post and saw that it had received 2,500 likes, almost 1,000 shares and close to 100 comments.
Wow. Just wow!
I am truly touched by how many people the article has reached. I started reading through the comments. Just like when the article first got published last year, a lot of the comments came from people also having experienced the loss of somebody close. They were saying how much they related to what I had written, thanking me for putting it into words. Comments saying it was beautifully written. People tagging other people to share.
Then I came across a comment that said: “You learn a lot more than these 8 ... .”
And somebody else had posted a meme of a woman shrugging her shoulders, saying: “And?”
You probably guessed it. I was upset. Like really upset.
My first instinct was to write a snarky comment. After all my article is not entitled: These are the ONLY 8 things I learned. I also wanted to ask how she could possibly know what I learned, especially when the emphasis in my article is about how this is a personal and individual journey. I wanted to tell her to write her own article if she didn’t like mine. And quite possibly a few others things that are not worth repeating here...
Yep, I was in full on defensive mode. And even when I had calmed down a little, I was still wondering why they had bothered to leave comments like that. With even more distance though, I was also wondering why they had triggered me so much. People do much, much worse things that I don’t understand either and that affect others much more deeply!
Out of all the positive feedback and love that was coming my way, I had chosen to focus on these two reactions instead.
Fortunately, I knew better than to give in to my ego-driven wishes for revenge. Because that is what it boiled down to. I wanted them to feel as bad as their comments had made me feel. Would I feel better then? (let alone that I'd never know what they feel like anyway.) Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it would have escalated and led to further hurtful comments.
And at the end of the day: I cannot blame them for how I felt. I had chosen to go down that route. I had chosen to focus on this rather than all the positivity. I had chosen to take it personal. I had totally blown it out of proportion. I needed to accept responsibility for my hurt! So, really the way to feel better was to change my focus.
It’s ok to get upset and going forward I am sure I still won’t be able to control my initial emotional reaction to things. But I can work on letting it go (even) more quickly and not letting it linger and spoil my day or even my week.
As an added bonus it's reminded me to be more aware of how I show up in life. Without a doubt I have caused similar pain to others - knowingly and unknowingly.
I’ll leave you with this quote by the Dalai Lama:
"Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace."