“I’m offended.” I’ve reached the point where I find this statement to be ludicrously comical. Partially because it has become so laughably common and partially because it is so incredibly narcissistic.
To say, “I’m offended,” is to describe your current state of being. It is to say that you are upset, or annoyed, or angry or that your feelings are hurt. The self-involved element is that it carries the implication that the other party should care. My problem with this is that it is so often said to an acquaintance or about a complete stranger or an event the speaker has nothing to do with, and usually in the most self-righteous way possible.
First, let’s acknowledge that you choose to be offended. Or at the very least, you allow another person’s words or actions the ability to affect your state of being. Your feelings. You have to let yourself be offended. As a result, you are complicit in the situation. You have to care enough about the other party for an emotional impact to be the result. This makes sense with friends or family or at work or with an event directly in your personal world. However, so often now this statement is made as a reaction to some statement, joke or action the speaker has no direct involvement with.
There is an extreme level of self-absorption displayed by believing that a complete stranger should care how you feel. “I’m offended” doesn’t really mean anything. There is possibly an implied action in the statement – you should therefore stop doing or saying whatever it is that has caused me to be offended – but it starts from a self-centered place that nullifies an intelligent argument because it is lazy. It requires the other party to do all of the work to change how you feel, and to care enough to do so.
And it’s ridiculous. It’s like an elementary school playground. “You hurt my feelings.” Ummmm, you’re a grown ass man, how about not letting let me hurt your feelings? Or, more maturely, how about engaging in a discussion, argument or debate about principles, beliefs and actions that could provide a tangible result beyond asking another person to, pretty please, not hurt your feelings?
Comedy is the most obvious place to see this played out. “I’m offended,” – by that joke, that reference, that movie, that TV show, or your tone, your outfit, your sarcasm. Okay, you don’t like it. Fine. Don’t listen, don’t watch, don’t go, don’t give them your money, but it is ridiculous to expect someone else to alter their worldview or their sense of humor to meet yours and make you feel better. Comedy is different for everyone. Some people like good clean silly humor, others, like myself, like transgressive humor that cuts to the core of a challenging issue with sly and shocking commentary. It isn’t for everyone. The fact that it offends you is not an intelligent enough reason for it to stop.
The entitlement that results from the strange mix of political correctness and the right to have every opinion a person has not only heard, but listened to, that modern social media propagates has resulted in the devolving of debate to a place where so many believe that simply being offended by something they don’t like or disagree with should be enough to make it stop. With no discussion or intelligent debate. As if not agreeing or not finding the same things funny means those things should not exist.
I think that is crap. Stating how you feel is not a winning debate tactic. If you want to fight, then do so. If something makes you angry, work actively against it. If you disagree with what someone says, argue with them. Challenge them. Find like-minded individuals and work together to take quantifiable action like an adult who understands that it takes action to create change. Stop thinking it is enough to state how you feel and expecting the world around you to react and be different.
I’m drawing a line in the sand, and from here on out, my only response to the statement, “I’m offended,” will be, “I don’t care.” Because honestly, I don’t. If you’re offended, that’s your right and your choice, but that’s on you. It has nothing to do with me. It’s my right to not care. If you have more to say than that, I will happily engage with you. If you are willing to take the time to analyze why you feel the way you do and what that means about how you think the world around you should exist and operate – that’s the basis for great discussion and healthy debate. Your feelings? Those are just about you. Save them for your therapist. You can naval-gaze to your heart’s content, but stop asking me to watch and care while you do it.
I’m not saying you don’t have the right to be angry, or upset, or resentful, but those feelings should lead you to a course of action. It is that action that matters and is relevant. And if it’s about a joke – get over yourself. Realize it’s a joke, you don’t have to think it’s funny, but don’t get your panties in a twist. Save your ire for issues, statements and actions worthy of your emotional time and energy. And again, create action to change them.
I’m interested in what you think, why we disagree and the discussion that could result from exploring that conflict, that makes humor, our society and our social interactions better, but I am not twelve years old and how you feel – yeah, I really, really don’t care.