Offended? Who cares?

Trigger warning: This post may offend. Tough; this blog is “The Brazen Leader,” not “The Milquetoast Leader.” Get over it… 

He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.

                                                                                                                                                                       –Brigham Young 

Being offended is a choice everyone makes. Unintentional offense is taken, not given. Even intentional offense must be internalized and accepted by the offended.

Anyone has the right to be offended, about just about anything it seems these days. Their right to be offended does not necessarily extend to my changing behavior. If someone is offended at inoffensive wording, they are the one with the problem, not me. There may be some very unique exceptions around unlawful harassment in employment (and even those are not without specific limitations), but those exceptions do not extend to all language all the time. You have the right to say that anything and everything offends you, I have the right to consider if that means anything to me. A pas de deux. Even the EEOC considers the context of the behavior when determining harassment.

Many diversity experts will tell you “intent doesn’t matter.” Yeah, well, I’m a people expert; of course intent matters.

People today say, “I’m offended” as if they are wielding some mythical sword, demanding apologies and causing all to immediately alter the alleged offense or face a run-through with the blade. We have, as a society, lost our collective ability to say “whatever,” and move on. Now, we feel like we have the power to force people to change from saying anything that we take offense to, merely because we take offense.

We need safe spaces and want “trigger warnings.” Full-scale bitching about “microaggressions” and “mansplaining;” we create lists of words to be banned. Not only that, we frequently expect heads to roll or companies to be boycotted. Journalists and commentators are fired. Speakers voices are openly squelched. Corporate and political leaders are forced out. Hell, there’s practically a cottage industry of people that take offense for people who don’t take offense. We do a disservice by playing along.

Today, pronouns–pronouns–are considered offensive by many. Let that sink in for a minute. Under no circumstances, short of federal imprisonment, will I stop using them, so that means I offend someone?? Gosh, I hope I survive. No, it simply means someone takes offense. Not the same thing. Yes, it does matter.

And I’m sorry, but those folks who are always offended have a problem, and I wish them well. But their problem isn’t with me, it’s with themselves. Grow up, get therapy, meditate… whatever floats your boat.

Personal preferences do not mandate reactionary behavior. Not that we shouldn’t attempt to maintain harmony, but you don’t get to mandate my reaction to your perceived slights. A favorite quote of mine, for a variety of reasons, has been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes (among others): “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” I’ll paraphrase that, and make it relevant to this discussion–“Your right to be offended ends where my responsibility to change begins.”

Be Brazen.

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