I’m sorry if you’ve ever said something offensive about me and I didn’t notice.
I’m sure that’s happened, and the more time that goes by I realize that being offended is something we should all strive to be, according to society and much of the media, especially in the Age of Trump.
But I have difficulty generating the necessary level of worrying about other people’s negative opinions of me to let anything they say offend me. I’ve always loved a quote that says when you spend all your time caring about what people think of you, you eventually realize that people don’t really spend much time thinking about you at all.
The actual quote goes like this (every source I find attributes it to “anonymous,” but someone should really take credit for it): “In your 20s and 30s, you worry about what other people think. In your 40s and 50s, you stop worrying about what other people think. Finally, in your 60s and 70s, you realize they were never thinking about you in the first place.”
Plus, to be offended, you really have to take yourself more seriously than I do.
I understand how out of step that makes me in our society, where being offended is practically a full-time job for some. Just scan any news site on any particular day, and it won’t be long until you come across a story about someone or some group who is highly offended by something someone else said or did.
Occasionally, I look at comments on The Times-Gazette’s website or Facebook page, or other sites where my columns appear, and I realize that someone has insulted me. I know that my natural reaction should be to feel offended by it.
But my attitude is, they’re entitled to their opinion, even if it’s a negative opinion about me. Sometimes I think I should try to care more, but it’s just not in me. So I have a very difficult time relating to people who say they are offended by what other people say about them.
Personally, I try not to offend people, even when I’m critical of something. I don’t call people childish names, and I try to show some level of respect even for those with whom I disagree. I may not always succeed, but I don’t go out of my way to offend anyone.
There are those who seem to take a special joy in being as intentionally offensive as they can. But even when that’s the case, how can their intended targets be offended unless they choose to be? Chances are, someone who would be that rude is someone you probably don’t respect in the first place.
I found some quotes about being offended from people who seem to share my general philosophy.
“To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.” – Clergyman David Bednar.
“I have never been offended. I don’t know what it means. It’s not that I disagree with it. I don’t understand it. I’ve never had that feeling. I don’t let feelings control my life.” – British activist and author Milo Yiannopoulos.
“People have tried to corner the market on being offended, corner the market on language and corner the market on opinion. Should I lose my job ‘cause I offended somebody? No, of course not. Your life should never be affected by public opinion.” — Comedian Patrice O’Neal.
“Humans are nervous, touchy creatures and can be easily offended. Many are deeply insecure. They become focused and energized by taking offense; it makes them feel meaningful and alive.” – Cartoonist and poet Michael Leunig.
“Being offended is part of being in the real world.” – Singer Courtney Love.
“Offense is no longer defense – it’s a full-time profession. Everyone is so offended all the time.” – Film director Karan Johar.
“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness.” – Pastor Joel Osteen.
“We’ve reached a point where people are actually afraid to talk about what they want to say, because somebody might be offended. We’ve got to get over this sensitivity and it keeps people from saying what they really believe.” – HUD secretary Ben Carson.
“If you’re offended, it’s your problem.” – Author Salman Rushdie.
“In America today, if your sensibilities are offended by something that has happened, you get an enormous amount of credibility and are taken very seriously.” – Newsman Britt Hume.
As Britt Hume noted, in today’s society, the art of being offended can be a powerful tool. Those who claim to be offended have a weapon at their disposal that can make organizations and even governments bend over backward to try to assuage their offended sensibilities. People can get in big trouble for offending someone.
Of all the quotes listed above, my favorite is, “To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”
That’s really true. We can choose to be offended. Even better, we can choose to shrug it off and get on with our lives, living outside of anyone else’s ability to control our mood or our emotions or our sense of self-worth. That’s what we all should do — if I can say that without offending anyone.
Gary Abernathy is publisher and editor of The Times-Gazette. Reach him at (937) 393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary