When someone starts a sentence with, “No offense, but…” you can rest assured that what they’re about to say is likely to be offensive. I dislike this phrase – I think it’s immature and vacuous. It immediately puts people on guard, ready to defend themselves against whatever offensive statement is about to be said. And really, if “no offense, but” was just dropped from the sentence, the same point could probably be made in a way the receiver may be more open to.
But when you break it down, this idea of being offended in the first place is actually a little strange. What does it mean to be offended, exactly? And why would I waste any of my precious energy being offended by what another person said or thought? I was reading some Wayne Dyer last night and he spoke about our ridiculous propensity to become offended in this culture. Everyone is walking around looking for a reason to be offended, he exclaimed (paraphrased). And that got me thinking.
We live in this strange, padded room society where we have to take extra care to not offend anyone. I am, in no way, suggesting that we become insensitive with the things we say. Words have a lot of power, and we should take care in how we use them. There’s always a polite, caring, and straightforward way to get a point across…but that’s a post for another day. What I’m referring to here is how we react when we are the recipient of communication from someone who has not put thought into their words before they speak (or who simply doesn’t care about how they make us feel, or worse, words from someone who is trying to push our buttons and get a reaction).
Further, this tendency to get offended over everything has resulted in a bevy of hot button topics that we simply avoid discussing because they’re too likely to turn into arguments (religion, politics, etc.). Isn’t this pretty tragic? How can two sides possibly find middle ground and understand each other if they simply cannot communicate without getting their panties in a wad?
We’re wound tight, and the results of this tension are evident all around us. Just look at your Facebook feed, or the comments section of just about any viral post on social media. Arguments and bickering, mud-slinging, you hurt my feelings and now I don’t like you even though I don’t know you… it’s insane. You’d think we were a bunch of third graders.
So, if this notion of getting offended is as toxic as it seems, shouldn’t offense be something we just omit from our life experience? I mean, we have control over how we react to others’ words, even the nastiest, most visceral ones. And “being offended” is never something that feels good, right? If our objective is to feel good, be happy, experience peace, shouldn’t we simply make a decision to not be offended by the things other people say? Is it that simple? Wouldn’t that be pretty empowering?
Perhaps the next thing we should ask ourselves is what, exactly, causes us to feel offended.
I think the answer is, the ego. Let’s drill it down. Here’s a very hypothetical example: If I slave away all day cooking a five-course meal for a group of friends, and then one of my dinner guests says, “No offense, Jessica, but your mashed potatoes are kind of lumpy.” What would my immediate, gut-level response be? Offense, of course! I’d be hurt. My goal was to make a delicious meal that would please everyone, not food they wouldn’t approve of. My next reaction would be irritation. Oh, well I don’t see you cooking for everyone? When was the last time you made mashed potatoes from scratch? I bet you don’t even know how to peel a potato! In fact, you probably can’t even use a stove, you jackass! Let’s see you make some better mashed potatoes! Really! BE MY GUEST! POTATOES AND MASHER ARE IN THE KITCHEN. AND BY THE WAY, I HATE YOU AND YOU’RE NEVER INVITED TO MY HO– USE AGAIN!!!!!!!
Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you get my point. I would be hurt first, then irritated or mad next. But the question is: why? Why would I really care if one of my guests liked my mashed potatoes? Would a comment about my lumpy mashed potatoes really be worthy of a negative emotional reaction? There’s clearly no benefit to allowing myself to respond with offense, and the parts of me that want to get offended are simply an unchecked ego. Does someone else’s disapproval of my lumpy mashed potatoes really affect my life experience? Only if I let it.
When I replay the scenario in my head, with my ego checked and knowing that getting offended over a comment about my mashed potatoes is about as juvenile as it gets, the outcome is one in which I am completely free of hurt feelings or frustration. What if, instead, I responded with, “you know, I have never been able to get that perfect, creamy consistency with my potatoes. Do you have any tips?” Voila! I’ve taken a comment that had the potential to really piss me off and turned it into an opportunity to learn something. Maybe my guest knows a thing or two about cooking that I don’t. OR MAYBE he was just being an asshole and my response helped him see that. Either way, it doesn’t matter, because I am at peace, dinner continues beautifully, and I am not one bit offended.
I’m not the type who is easily offended, but I can say that when someone gets under my skin, they REALLY get under my skin. And the more I think about it, the less sense that makes. By allowing myself to feel offended, am I not giving away my power? What benefit does getting offended about anything really offer?
Food for thought.
In other news, I changed location today. The campground I was at closes for the season on Sunday, and we’re supposed to get some gnarly weather this weekend. I didn’t want to have to move and set up in a storm, so I went ahead and did it today. It’s a cool little spot along the Colorado River, on the backside of some beautiful mountains full of yellow Aspen. When I get up tomorrow, I’ll take some pictures to share.
I also purchased a generator and a spare propane tank. I’ve been on solar for a month now, and except for the initial learning curve, it’s worked great (thanks, Brad)! I have just been very conscious of the power I use, and the time of day I charge things up (it’s best when I charge during the strongest sun). However, I also have seen how a couple of days of partly cloudy weather can be a challenge. Having a generator, I’ll be able to charge my batteries back up when the sun isn’t cooperating, without having to stress out about having adequate power. Similarly, the spare propane tank is just a backup that might extend my dry camping – which is all I’ve done so far.
I managed to stretch one tank of fresh water out to a month – granted, I’m buying bottled water to drink, but that means I’ve only used about 40 gallons of water to do dishes, shower, clean, etc. for a month. My showers take about 1 gallon (that’s right) – I just turn the water on to get wet and rinse off the soap. Before I hit the road, I was curious about how long the water tank would last me, so I did a Google search to get an idea of how much fresh water the average person uses in a day. It was astronomical – about 80-100 gallons per day, per person (can you believe that?!). On the low end, that equals about 2400 gallons per month… so I’m feeling pretty good about getting by on about 70 gallons (approximately 40 for cleaning, and 30 for drinking).
Oh, I also cleaned out the #2 section of my compost toilet today. I feel like that deserves a post of its own… Lessons learned after a month of using a waterless shitter… stay tuned!