When something painful happens it’s important to reflect, asking questions that promote understanding not blame.

I want to reflect on three r’s that can help prevent offence becoming a building project.

  • Respond
  • Reflect
  • Resolve


It strikes me that in taking offence the easiest thing to do is react and I mean literally to re-act. Offence is painful and hurt people will often hurt people. Pain makes us feel that we are under attack so we defend by attacking. It’s almost as if we are programmed to behave on the basis that the best form of defence is literally offence!

The key is not to react but respond. Managing yourself by not reacting creates time and space to respond which based on the Latin root meaning of the word, means to re-vow, to re-promise or as I like to think about it, to re-covenant. In other words responding is me choosing to behave in a way that is consistent with my values rather than my feelings. That’s self-control right there.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting it’s easy but it is possible and a much happier and healthier way to live mentally, emotionally and physically.


When something painful happens it’s important to reflect. In my work that process of reflection is called root cause analysis. It’s a structured way of establishing exactly what happened, why it happened and what lessons can be learned to prevent it happening again. This process involves asking questions not in order to blame but in order to understand. Blame is toxic and one of the things it kills is learning.

With that in mind here are some questions that might help the learning process. I’m sure you will think of others.

– Was offence given or did I just take it even though it wasn’t on offer?

– Did the other person intend to offend me? If the answer to this question is yes, then what was their motive? I suspect when a friend wounds me they know that it is going to cause pain so in that sense it’s intentional, but their motive is love not war, to help not to harm. By the way it takes great courage to wound a friend but that’s another post!

– What is it about what they said or did, or the way they said or did it, that was painful?

– Was there anything contributing to me having a lower pain threshold at that time or in that area? In other words was I having a bad day? Or is that area a particularly sensitive one for me right now?

These questions are really designed to increase my level of self-awareness. 


Having sought to respond and reflect it is vital then to come to resolution. Some people never recover from offence. They live with it their whole lives. I imagine we have all heard stories of relatives that have not spoken to each other for years, families that have been split apart because someone said something to someone, somewhere, sometime and no one can remember who, what, when or where!

So what does resolution look like? To me it’s found in the answers to these questions.

– What have I learned: about myself, about the other person, about the situation itself? If as it is said life is an education, then offence is a lesson.

– Am I able to come to a place of peace myself or do I need to talk to someone else or the person who offended me to bring closure?

– Have I forgiven the person who offended me whether they intended to offend me or not?

Forgiveness is a whole new subject but it’s worth saying here that the ability to forgive is the key to moving past offence and living a happy and healthy life. A so called forgiving person is most often a happy and healthy person and there’s a reason for that.

We all need to take responsibility for our internal worlds, our own personal growth and the interplay between our internal world and the external world that surrounds us. 

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