Choosing To Feel Offended

I’m Offended

August 29, 2016

Allan Stevo

An Austrian friend of mine who is an avid reader of a wide array of world media commented to me that America is unique in that it is the only place where you can worm your way out of an intellectual discussion by saying “I’m offended” and others will recognize it as a legitimate reason to stop the discussion.
 

Only in America

This observation provides an interesting piece of insight on how freedom of speech is interpreted in America. Being sensitive to the feelings of another is at times of paramount importance. In the context of an intellectual discussion it ought to have little place, for digging at the truth should be the goal of intellectual discussion and such cries obfuscate the truth.
 

Better to Laugh at Such a Person

The notion of saying “I’m offended” and genuinely meaning it should be an all out embarrassment to anyone who says it. Such a person should be laughed at in the context of an intellectual discussion.
 

The Choice to Feel Offended

Being offended is of course, like all other feelings, a choice. There is a moment between input and output, between cause and effect, where the conscious mind may pause and reflect and even take control. You choose to feel offended.

You may believe you have every right to feel offended, but you have little business sharing that with someone else, especially with the expectation that someone in an intellectual discussion should edit themselves to suit you as a debate partner. The reason is because you choose whether or not to be offended and no one has any business kowtowing to your weak choice.
 

Perpetually Offended

Some people are perpetually offended, as if finding new instances of insult brings them great happiness in life. Such people can be the vocal few who tend to have such impact on American debate. With them involved, instead of debate focusing on the most brilliant thinkers facing off, debate must take into consideration a non-entity in the debate who is only meta-criticizing the debate rather than seeking to interact with the content of the debate.

These perpetually offended people, who would find insult even in a rose, are foolish to cater to because regardless of the input, the same output will always be produced. They will perpetually be offended and there is nothing you or anyone else can do about that. Given that realization, is it not better to simply refrain from expending any resources trying to appease the perpetually offended and to instead expend resources in a manner where those resources can be most effective?
 

The Meaning of I’m Offended

I’m offended is a way to say “okay, that’s it, time to end that part of the discussion, you are making too much sense,” or “I have been beaten, my side has been beaten, I am starting to feel like I have been wrong for some time in holding this opinion, now I must distract from that fact with hysterics that have nothing to do with the pursuit of the truth.”
 

Bad Apple

When I hear generally intelligent people resort to saying I’m offended, I know that the person has been corrupted by a society so comfortable with using that weak cop-out and clearly so uncomfortable with statements of truth.
 

Censorship

“I’m offended” tends to be a way to censor someone and to cut off discussion. This is pernicious as it prevents the spread of ideas. In a free society, anything that seeks to limit the spread of ideas should be looked at suspiciously. There is little reason that any confident person should want the propagation of the ideas of another to be limited. There is little reason a truth seeker would want to stifle debate. “I’m offended” has the consequence of preventing others from talking through and consequently thinking through problems of concern to individuals and to society at large.
 

Entitlement

Part of saying I’m offended is a statement of entitlement. In saying it, you somehow believe have a right to walk through the world being not offended. You have no such right. You, in practice, have all the rights you can cause to happen. You cannot cause the world to protect you from being offended. Offense for nearly every person is as close as a truth teller who feels like sharing a few observations with you about anything that you consider a sacred cow.
 

The Source You Blame for Your Weakness

The speaker of a sentence is often important in the creating of offense. A sentence said by one person may cause one to feel offended, an identical statement said by another may not cause offense. This further highlights how irrelevant content is in this decision.

You are not feeling offended, you are blaming your weakness on one person while with another person you would own your weakness. The person speaking has crossed a line they are not entitled to cross for some reason that is most likely arbitrarily created by you at that given moment.
 

Calling on Others to Change

I’m offended means “because I am too weak to control my own emotions, I expect you to edit your words instead of sharing your observations with the world.” How unrealistic it is in virtually all areas of life to complain to others about not changing before turning a mirror on yourself and looking to yourself to change. An entire life can be spent on self-improvement. It can make for a hard and fulfilling life. On the contrary, one may spend a life trying to force others to change. This is a less impressive and less effective feat, much easier to accomplish and far less fulfilling. Be the change you wish to see in the world, said a notable wise man. There is a fundamental problem at the heart of this attitude to change others that pervades society and saying “I’m offended” is an ugly consequence of that attitude.
 

In an Ideal World

I do not particularly care if you feel offended and in an ideal world neither should anyone else. And to make that ideal world even better, you would feel great shame in even using such a statement in intellectual discussion. There are times where sensitivity should trump a dogged pursuit of the truth and in an intellectual discussion that should never be the case.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: mononews.gr

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