You read it all the time, “Joe Somebody is offended by racist/sexist/inappropriate remark,” but do you ever stop and ask why is Joe Somebody offended? Or what does it even mean to be offended in the first place? To me, being offended is a socially acceptable form of whining to your mother because your brother/friend made fun of you or said something mean. Let’s face it… you weren’t offended; your feelings were hurt. There are ALWAYS people in this world that are going to say hurtful things and every one of us will be hurt at one time or another. But, does being offended serve any purpose to the offended or the offender? I would argue no.
Let’s talk about the offender for a moment. When someone says something hurtful they are either doing so intentionally or accidentally. If it is intentional, then acknowledging their success by saying you are offended is like giving them an A on their “being an ass” exam. I personally do not like to give out A’s for being an ass, so acknowledging they hurt my feelings (i.e., offended me) will only help them and hurt you. Also, if someone is intentionally being an ass, they are likely living a much more miserable life than you and that should be punishment enough for them.
Let’s look at the second category of offenders, the accidental ones. What does the word accidental mean? It is the exact opposite of intentional. You simply cannot be mad at someone for hurting your feelings by accident. It’s like getting mad at a child for not understanding calculus. Seriously!? You call that a derivative?! But, this is not to say that you cannot do anything. This scenario provides you with a very big opportunity to educate! Not to yell or name call or demean them, but simply to educate them. Lead this discussion by talking about your HURT feelings. And yes, you need to use the words hurt and not offend. To be honest, using the word “offend” is only going to make them defensive and you will get nowhere (most likely). But, people turn into little balls of mush when others talk about their feelings. Don’t talk about facts, talk about feelings people! Why did they hurt your feelings? Are you willing to forgive them? Are you willing to truly listen to them? We all come from different backgrounds/cultures/parents/etc. and if you really listen to what someone else has to say, you may learn something. They may learn something too. Most people aren’t trying to be mean, sometimes they are trying to be funny, but usually they aren’t trying to be mean. If they are, then they are in that other category and they aren’t worth your time.
By simply being offended, you are serving no purpose except sitting and whining about your feelings. Yes hurt feelings suck, but what are you going to do about it? Do you even want to do anything about it? Do you just want attention for being hurt? If so, you may have to do some growing up. Or worse, do you want to hurt the other person? If so, you are doing the EXACT same thing you are accusing them of doing and you are no better than them just because your feelings were hurt first. Be the bigger person and do something constructive with your feelings.
Let’s look at this another way. The word “offend” requires an offender and an offended. The offender is like the plaintiff; they are the one to blame while the offended is like the defendant or the victim. The problem with this scenario is that it requires the offender to read the mind of the offended! If the offender does not know the other person is offended, then how could his words be malicious? To me this is an unfair accusation because in many circumstances, a person becomes an offender unintentionally. And by saying you’re offended, you are now placing the blame for YOUR hurt feelings on someone else. As far as I know, it is not possible to cause someone else to feel something. Yes you could hit someone and cause them pain, but we’re only talking words here. Do I really have to be responsible for everyone’s feelings around me? Can I never say a blond joke even though I have blond hair? Can we ever laugh again? Or are we all simply going to be offended all day long and never get anything worthwhile accomplished?