Paul's Blog

Being Offended is Optional

So I’m at my fancy athletic club this morning, where people like me pursue our quest for health, peace and in my case, the ability to button up my trousers without sucking in my breath. Alas, today I caught myself becoming enraged at the piles of other people’s stuff all over the place. So much for experiencing inner peace.

Brief sidebar: My 6-year old son Jack takes taekwondo lessons and at the beginning of each lesson, the students and instructors explicitly show each other respect by bowing to each other… then before the class begins they recite their pledge:

“I intend to develop myself in a positive manner and to avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or physical health. I intend to develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and others. I intend to use what I learn in class constructively and defensively, to help myself and my fellow man, and never to be abusive or offensive.”

Now I’m not sayin’ that the captains of industry, the pillars of the community, or the movers-and-shakers who frequent my club need to go through quite so formal a process when they come to work out. I’m just sayin’ that I shouldn’t have to navigate through their debris, and it occurred to me in one instant that it would be prudent to place a sign in the locker room that says:

“Respect others. Clean up after yourself.”

Then, as I caught myself righteously judging others by my own standards – standards that, unless they can mind-read, they don’t know I hold and that they certainly haven’t signed up to – I started feeling a little silly. I reminded myself what I remind my clients – choosing to be offended and enraged is optional and that if I care enough about this issue then I need to bring my concern to their attention and get a new standard agreed to.

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