This is normally how it happens:
We sit at a table in business, relationships, family or friendships and…. conflict happens. We never want it to, but it does.
I’ve noticed a Canadian default that has been brought to my attention over the last 39 years of my life and I wonder if you’ve noticed the same thing? Firstly it should be noted that we love peace and getting along with each other so much we somehow manage to be shocked when the inevitable conflict happens between us. Maybe it offends our sense of decency or something?
We get offended very easily. We call it being hurt and use it to fuel the words and actions that come next, which are normally worse than the original incident, and then it all escalates into the nasty stuff.
Being hurt is a part of life. Conflict is inescapable unless you want to live by yourself. But even then there’s no one who can drive me crazy more than myself some of the time. Hurt is something that happens to you and you have no control over it because you have no control over them. It should be noted that placing yourself in harm’s way or abusive relationships needs to be avoided with healthy boundaries, but even the most healthy person in the world is going to be hurt by the people around them, even people that love them.
Taking offense is not the same thing at all. It is a decision you make. You do it for different reasons. Some like the negative energy you get when you kick your chair back from the table and get all “righteous”. “Can you believe what they said?!!!!” Some have trouble trusting in the first place and this only proves their negative and pessimistic selves right once again and that feels good. Some of us just like the drama.
Getting your nose out of joint starts with a decision you make to do it, though it might be the most natural thing in the world because it is your DEFAULT. In your family of origin that’s just what you did…. it’s what everybody did! It’s normal. Step one: hurt. Step two: take offense.
Conflict happens. You kick your chair back from the table.
The next thing we’re good at is FORTIFYING. Grab the person on your right and your left and start talkin’. Get some allies and begin building walls around your side of the story!
Our working definition at Venue Church for Offense is “Resentment from a perceived insult”. Perceived is a huge word!
So let’s back up here. Something is said in a certain way, or done and we perceive, or DECIDE we’ve been insulted and kick our chair back. Then we fortify around what may not actually be an insult at all by gathering people to our side of the story. Next we do what Canadians do and believe the person in front of us telling us this strangely attractive story while they beat their breast with the injustice of it all! We’re smart people most of the time, but not when offense is floating around. It kills brain cells.
Conflict. Chair Back. Fortify… then…
We walk right out the door without ever check the details because maybe we don’t have the guts we should and care more about our image with a one-sided story we’ve already given our allies, and we create a self-fulfilling prophecy because we “just knew that they were going to reject us!!!” We take our low self esteem, make a nasty assumption, put thoughts in people’s minds and extra words in their mouths, gather support from people who weren’t affected at all until we pulled them in, and we walk out to prove ourselves right.
Yeah it hurts when I lay it out like that but being stupid hurts and I should really stop being stupid and do something different. How many fractured relationships happen when one party leaves abruptly and the other doesn’t even really know why? I can’t tell you how many people leave churches and their pastor only gets the announcement! To leave a perfectly healthy and flawed church (it’s the human ingredient) when the people who love you have no idea what happened? Sure, they’ve had loads of conversations, but not with me!!! Who cares what I think? Who cares about my side of the story? Who cares about your boss’s side of the story? Your friend? Your wife?
You pushed the “Quick! Do something stupid!” button and before you really knew what you’d done you were out the door!
There’s only one thing that will break this pattern in our lives and it’s something very simple:
Change your default setting from kicking your chair back to leaning in. Let it forever be the first thing you do. Lean in and ask the question “When you said that, what did you mean?”
“But what if they reject me?”
“But what if people believe their side and not mine?”
“But what if my side of the story doesn’t look so good after their side is told?”
IT WON’T. Relax.
The worst you can be is wrong.