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Neither Give nor Take Offense

little girl sitting in a meadow in the sunlight
Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Our daughter came home from college for spring break—and stayed for spring term. As with much of the world, Oregon is on lock-down in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the university decided to hold all classes online. So now we are three very independent-minded adults all living and working in the same house. Each of us is used to going out in the world and doing our thing. Now we get to do our thing in the same space. How do you deal with suddenly being confined to your home? To your parents’ home? How do you live in close quarters all day and not take offense when people do things that annoy you?

Here’s what I’m learning

We all get stressed at different times and about different things. One minute, a person may seem okay and the next they might snap at you. It’s alright. Just give them space and they’ll get through it. So will you.

When I’m working, there are times when I need to focus and times when I’m interruptible. But from the outside, it all looks the same. I can’t expect people to know what’s going on in my head. So I’m learning to not snap at people, but rather to communicate instead.

Neither give nor take offense

I’ve been struck lately by how two people can experience the same interaction in completely different ways. Let’s say you have an idea that will make our lives easier. It’s actually a really good idea and you’re eager to share it. This is “positive intent.”

In the meantime, I’ve come up against a really sticky problem in the project I’m working on. There are lots of moving parts and I’m struggling to figure out how to fit them all together. This is also positive intent.

When you show up with your good idea, I experience it as a distraction. It’s still a really good idea… and it’s preventing me from solving my problem.

This is why we need to give each other plenty of buffer, plenty of space. Neither of us is wrong. Neither of us is trying to annoy the other. It’s simply a collision of two positive intents aimed in different directions.

So the next time you start to take offense at someone’s behavior, take a breath. Step back and look. Can you see what direction their positive intent is taking them?

When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. ~ 'Abdu'l-Baha

How are you dealing with staying at home? What are you learning about creating a harmonious environment with your housemates? Share your insights in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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