Don’t Be Offended

by Stephen Mills on June 20, 2009

Offense

In my last article I wrote about not being a victim.  Here’s a big clue you are playing the victim: You are offended.  Forget about whether you “have a right” to be offended.  Forget about whether the other person, or group, or circumstance is truly offensive.  None of that really matters.  The true problem is you.  If you are offended, then you are being a victim.  You are letting others control you.

Some people really get off on being offended. It’s their way of life.  It’s how they attempt to control other people.  There are others who seem to make their living at being offended on behalf of others.  Al Sharpton comes to mind here.  If you find yourself frequently offended, you need to do some soul searching.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t engage in or support a lot of the behavior that some people find offensive.  However, it does not offend me.  I can easily ignore it.  It slides right on past me.  As long as I can remember I have thought that people who are offended have a problem far greater than the offender.

When I was a young school child I once raised my hand in class.  When my old and rather proper teacher called upon me I asked: “May I be excused to go excrete my body waste.”  She started screeching at me.  How dare I talk to her that way, etc.  She was truly offended.  I had won.  I had accomplished my purpose.  She had just encouraged my future behavior.

In 7th grade I had a history teacher who was really proud of his American flag.  So one day my friends and I pinned a bunch of pictures of naked women and their parts all over his flag.  He came into the room and went ballistic.  He started ripping off the pictures screaming about desecration of the flag.  I was more thrilled than a sky diver jumping out of a plane.  Parents, this is a lesson that should not be lost upon you either.

Some people are intentionally trying to be offensive, like me with my teachers.  You let them win when you are offended.  Are you offended by shove-it-in-your-face gay rights activists who display right in front of you what you consider offensive behavior?  If so, then they got what they wanted.  You handed them the victory they were seeking.

What’s even worse is that as far as I can see, most of what offends people was never intended as offensive in the first place.  Being offended in that case is a true tragedy.  We have become a society of thought and action police over harmless nonsense.  Are you a Native American who is offended by the Florida State Seminoles mascot and tomahawk chop?  If so then you are a supreme victim.  Not a single one of those 80,000 fans has a Native American or his culture on their minds during their harmless fun.  My high school mascot was an Indian.  I never once thought of Native Americans.

I know people will say that it may seem harmless to you but it hurts other people.  That’s my point.  It shouldn’t hurt those other people.  When you try to control other people because of your “sensitivities” you are in the wrong.  You are the victim.  As far as I’m concerned it really doesn’t matter whether someone is intentionally trying to offend or not.  The ultimate problem is with the offendee.

Yes there is a lot of outrageous speech and behavior, but so what?  Don’t play into the drama with your offense.  Frankly I’m glad I live in a diverse world where people can try to offend me.  I think it is healthy in the long run.  Would you rather be in Iran or Afghanistan?  The one thing that probably does offend me is people who think they have a right to control the thoughts, speech, or actions of their fellow citizens. The corporate world and many college campuses have turned into places where you have to be on guard for the thought police that are lurking around every corner waiting for you to offend.  I think it is sad.

When I was growing up in the 70’s it seemed the world was a lot less uptight.  That’s probably just my selective memory.  I think we all did get along better though.  Since that time we seem to have fragmented into an endless variety of interests groups based upon sex, sexual-orientation, ethnicity, wealth class, politics, and religion who are constantly offended by the actions of the other groups.  Maybe not, but that’s the way it seems to me.

If you want to be happy and live a fulfilling and joyful life, you have got to eliminate the offense from your life.  Otherwise, you had better prepare to die a bitter old person having been wronged by a world you didn’t ask for.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt | Focused Awareness Blog June 20, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Way to stand behind your writing, Steve. The original post was great and now you are making it even more complete. It’s so easy to blame other people for our problems and for how we feel about our self. It’s easy because it allows us to ignore the real problem and robs us any chance at reaching the solution that is right in front of us, or inside of us really. Any resentment or insecurity we have inside may well be bolstered by society or our interactions with our peers but the source is in our own mind. We have to take responsibility for our emotions and especially our own feelings of self worth.
What ever we feel has instilled these negative emotions in us is only a scapegoat for the real perpetrator, our selves.

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Chris Anthony - Lost in Translation June 20, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Stephen, I think you jumped the tracks a little here. I was with you until you started berating people for being offended – that just seems counterproductive. Isn’t the whole point to help people get into a better place, not make them feel bad for being in the place they’re in?

We do have a responsibility to others to be tolerant of their offenses. We also have a responsibility to minimize the offenses we cause. By claiming that the only problem here is those being offended, you’re granting license to offend freely – and a society founded on that principle isn’t one I want to be any part of.

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Stephen Mills June 20, 2009 at 8:15 pm

@Matt, thanks for your comments and of course I agree completely.

@Chris, thanks for your perspective but I disagree. First of all I am not suggesting that I want to live somewhere where people do nothing but try to offend each other. In fact I think if you read the article closely, you will see that an important part of the point I am making is that by ignoring those who offend you that you will discourage the offensive behavior. I am totally convinced of that. Those who offend, including myself in my youth, get off on the REACTION of the offended. My observation of the world today is unchanged in that regard.

Secondly, the reaction to the offense, regardless of how much you feel justified in that reaction, is simply being a victim. It does not help you. So both in regards to the motivation to the offender and the health of the offendee, I stick to my position. Being offended doesn’t help anyone. It encourages further offense and it hurts the person who feels offended. It’s counter-productive all the way around.

I choose to associate with, interact with, encourage, help, or whatever else people who I want to be around. Those people don’t offend me. I try very hard not to be offended and a lifetime of this habit makes it very easy. I think if everyone did the same the world we be a better place.

“We also have a responsibility to minimize the offenses we cause.”

No sir. Somebody could be offended at anything I do and thereby totally control me. That is a world I want no part of. It’s part of the problem with modern society. Where do you draw the line? You are the judge jury and king controller of other peoples’ actions by your sensitivities. There is no limit.

Finally as I said in my last post, enabling victimhood, including doing so by endorsing offended behavior does not help anyone. You may disagree, but that’s my position and that’s why I articulated it.

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Chris Anthony - Lost in Translation June 20, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Stephen, I think I disagree less with your position – yes, ideally we will all be less affected – and more with your approach. I simply don’t think it’s helpful at all to chastise people for being offended. It’s like the old joke about the man seeing the doctor about pain when he raised his arm; the doctor’s response: “So don’t raise your arm!” Sure, it addresses the symptom, but it doesn’t actually do anything about the problem.

To put it a different way: from my perspective, you’re giving a man a fish in this post. If that’s what you’re going for, I’ll desist. But I think teaching the man to fish is a better approach.

As far as minimizing offense goes, you seem to be refusing to acknowledge the feelings of others when you take action – or at least, you seem to be saying that your desires are paramount in any situation. I fervently disagree with this approach to taking ownership of our place in a shared world. (Incidentally, this is a problem I also have with your post last month about compromise.) It just isn’t true that you have to choose between the extremes of being wholly governed by the offense that others take and wholly ignoring it. There are degrees between the two, and I strongly believe that taking one extreme or the other is abdicating responsibility.

I’m sorry to be so adamant in my disagreement, but I think this is one of those places where we’re probably going to differ in thought no matter what.

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Stephen Mills June 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm

@Chris, don’t be sorry! I’m not offended, LOL :-)

“…but I think this is one of those places where we’re probably going to differ in thought no matter what.”

I think you are right. On the other hand I’m suspecting your idea of my position is missing a lot of subtleties. Unfortunately, you can’t articulate all of those in a blog post. It’s not like I ignore my impact on others because I don’t. I don’t go around intentionally irritating or offending people. The principle argument of my article was not the actions of the offender, but the actions of the offendee – the victim. We are now talking about our responsibilities as offenders which would require a different article.

Finally, to make a point you can’t say take a middle position or you are basically saying nothing. Your point has to be somewhere on the edge. My positions generally are on the edge and obviously much more so than yours. However, I suspect they are not nearly as black and white as you are getting from all of this.

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Chris Anthony - Lost in Translation June 20, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Fair enough, Stephen. I’ll stop clogging up your comment stream now. :)

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Charles June 21, 2009 at 1:15 am

I’m tempted to post something offensive, but I won’t :-P

But I agree with what you said. In fact, I just had heard a great story about offenses. The Greek word for offenses can be translated to ‘scandalon’. Scandalon is a trap for animals where the prey lands in a pit with pointed stakes that pierces their flesh and paralyzes them.

It’s a great analogy, in that if we get offended, we get paralyzed, the pain stays and (the saddest thing is) we cannot move on in life.

Maturity comes when we accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that offenses will surely come; that we should not let offenses affect us; or when they do affect us, we quickly forgive and let it go.
.-= Charles´s last blog ..Are you Brain-Dumping or Communicating? =-.

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Alex - unleash reality June 21, 2009 at 6:36 am

hey stephen!!

really like how you say,”forget about being offended… none of that really matters.”

…so true that some people really get off on being offended. they like to be the victim. seems to me like they easily get offended just so they can fight back and be the hero. like the reason people let themselves be controlled – so they can control back. the reason people seek a lack of security – so they can win it back. a constant push pull with reality.

funny annecdote about your 7th grade history teacher ;)

what you react to says a lot about you.

really cool stuff, well written and awesome message
gave it a stumble

all the best
alex – unleash reality
.-= Alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Sound-Bite Sized Self-Help =-.

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Dragos Roua June 21, 2009 at 8:53 am

Being offended is a way to succumb to the offender’s aggression (if it is an aggression). if you’re not offended you’re annihilating his attitude. I knew this for a long time but I wasn’t always able to implement it in real life.

I don’t like people who are getting upset out of nothing. I just don’t, I do my best to avoid or ignore. Life is beautiful.

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Greg June 21, 2009 at 9:19 am

Question to ask self or those who “seek” to be offended: “Why would you choose that experience?”

Being offended is, indeed, victimizing the self and expressing one’s having been “offended” is seeking to silence that which they don’t want to have to hear, that which they don’t want to see.

Freedom is not freedom unless it’s the freedom to hear & see that which you may have to hear & see.

It is the development of personal responsibility to manage one’s life toward avoidance or indulgence of life and all it has to offer.

Instead of an individual being offended, transform the experience into observation of self and asking the self, “why would I choose to be offended?”

The answer usually gets defined: Because I want to control what others are doing or saying.

All life is selective & subjective to the individual; the source for deciding morals/values is as vast as the stars in the universe; everyone wants their way.

Cheers! Great Article. Bravo!

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Deb Owen June 21, 2009 at 9:30 am

I could not agree more, Stephen.

Especially with your point that being offended is the way that people often attempt to control other people. It’s one of the things that led me to write my post on ‘crazymakers’ a couple of weeks ago.

There is a woman I’m acquainted with. Everyone around her will tell you how nice and wonderful she is. But as you look more closely, she is controlling the entire scene and everyone in it. She most often does this through use of a non-specific ‘condition’ combined with being easily offended and easily upset — which leads people around her to constantly walk on eggshells and stay on edge. No one wants to upset her. After all, she’s so nice.

But being offended?
It reminds me of that old quote about getting angry. Something along the lines of….”resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The offender experienced the event. If they were looking for a particular reaction, they got the reaction they wanted. And they’ve moved on.

Thanks for another great post, Stephen!
All the best!
deb
.-= Deb Owen´s last blog ..when being productive doesn’t work (finding your purpose) =-.

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Vin - NaturalBias June 21, 2009 at 11:42 am

Great article Stephen! Although it may aggravate some people, that’s exactly what they need to recognize their flawed perspective. Allowing yourself to be easily offended, and even worse, intentionally bringing it on is certainly no way to increase the enjoyment of your life.
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..Your Right to Choose Healthy Food is at Stake … Again =-.

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Sunny Jamiel June 22, 2009 at 8:34 am

Stephen,

Good point here and the funny thing is that there will be people who will actually get offended by this very same article. Just hope that they give themselves a chance to understand it. Well written post.
.-= Sunny Jamiel´s last blog ..Life, Circles and the Shift =-.

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Celes | CelestineChua.com June 24, 2009 at 3:44 am

Hey Stephen, you have a very intriguing personality – you know yourself, your rights, and you refuse to conform if it means covering up your individuality. With regards to the post, it reminds me on this book I read the last time on Forgiveness. To first forgive, we need to forgive not the other person, but ourselves. When we choose angry towards others, we are actually putting down ourselves, not others. I think this post resonates to that point. Great article, Stephen.

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Mo. R....... July 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm

At the age of seven, I was very upset and offended at an older girl’s disgusting alteration of my unusual surname. It verged on the obscene and because I was visibly upset, caused me much teasing and embarrassment for a couple of years. until my Auntie told me to laugh at the silliness of it. Within months the teasing stopped. . .until someone was offended on my behalf and told the teacher.who reproved the offenders. Many covert insults and teasing resumed. My family migrated to Australia but even last month, our ages now 73, and 12,000 miles from my old school, I was greeted at a club by a past student with, “Were’t you R……..?” I can truthfully say, it blighted my life. . . . Someone is SURE to chip it into my gravestone!

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