Many years ago I was given a two page typed document which contained a simple, but very profound statement: “Taking offense is a lying way of giving offense.” The rest of this document, which was attributed to the Arbinger Institute, explained in fairly simple terms a somewhat complex pattern of mutual, collusive blaming and taking offense. This pattern is exhibited commonly between individuals, in families, within organizations, between large groups of people, and even between nations.
We all learn this early in life. The young child who cries and says “He hurt my feelings” learns that she gets sympathy, and anything she may have done is forgotten as the attention shifts to this “meany” who must pay the consequences. The basis of this pattern is so simple, yet can be so hard to really grasp: Any time we take offense at something someone says or does, we in effect, are attacking them by the accusation. Taking offense IS an offense. Playing the victim is really an act of aggression.