“Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Which is why it is essential that we not respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control.”
One of the idea that the Stoics strongly hold is that no one can make us feel anything with our permission. And what do I mean by that?
If someone is rude to us, shouldn’t we feel offended?
If someone is mean to us, should us feel hurt?
If someone gossips about us, shouldn’t we feel indignant?
Sure. We can go right ahead and feel whatever we want. Just remember that it’s our choice for feel that way.
And how is it our choice? Because we give meaning to the other person’s words or actions. It’s the way that we think about what they did or, that causes those emotions.
Have you ever been around someone that is easily offended? They look for slights or ulterior motives in everything other people do? Because they are expecting others to do things that are rude or offensive, even the smallest thing feeds into their ideas of the fact that someone is out to get them.
And on the flip side, have you been around someone that is patient and calm, and always assumes the best motives of others, or failing good motives, that the other person is simply ignorant? People like this choose to see the exact same words and actions from others from a completely different perspective, and by giving people the benefit of the doubt, they are not easily offended, or not offended at all. By rejecting the idea that they somehow suffered by the words of others, they are acknowledging that the words of others hold only as much power over them as they let them. They decided that they weren’t hurt by those words, and therefore they weren’t.
So why do we take offensive at what others do an say? Why do we get bent out of shape about what others do? (And as side note, I think it’s interesting that we “take offense” at something as if it is something we reach out ourselves and grab.) I think we take offense because we have expectations of how we think someone else should act, and when they don’t act the way that we think they should, we get frustrated that we aren’t able to control the outcome. Our egos don’t like it.
Remember, you always have choice to decide that you have been injured. And as Marcus Aurelius said, “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”