It’s Okay to Be Offended


By: Justin P. Goodrich, LL.M


Welcome to 2018.

I’d like to start the new year by letting you know that “I’m okay with you being offended.”

You see, I have reached a point where I am simply too exhausted to always second guess everything I say for the sake of political correctness.  Thus, it would simply be easier to make my peace with the idea of offending you.

Now before I go any further, I should point out a couple of things.  First, I am being mildly facetious (so please, don’t be offended).  Second, I am not talking about intentionally using words or engaging in actions that are deigned to sadden, discourage, hurt, offend or otherwise cause negative emotions in others.  What I am talking about is the notion that getting offended is simply a part of life.  More importantly – and this is the part more and more people seem to forget –  when you get offended, nothing actually happens!

I suppose it was Christmas that brought this out in me (I know… the irony).  The thing is, once again we had to navigate the choppy waters of political correctness as we found ourselves asking if it’s still ‘okay’ to wish people a Merry Christmas, or if it’s ‘offensive’ and we should therefore wish them Happy Holidays.

As a person of faith, I wish people a Merry Christmas because I believe in the ‘reason for the season’.  When I do wish someone a Merry Christmas I have no agenda other than to extend my best wishes.  Let me also state that I am never offended when someone of a different religious or cultural belief wishes me well.  I don’t get offended when someone of Asian descent wishes me Happy New Year in the middle of February as part of the Chinese New Year.  I don’t get offended when someone of South Asian descent wishes me Happy Diwali in October.  I don’t get offended when my Jewish friends wish me Happy Hanukah.  Why?  Because it’s not about the words, but rather the spirit and sentiments behind them.

For The Record…

As noted in my introduction, the tone of this column is somewhat facetious.  However, it does beg the question: Why do we get so easily offended?  Here I will turn to speaker and author Ryan Michler (Order of Man) who breaks down the process of being offended – more specifically, why we respond the way we do.

Michler begins with examining our own attitude.  Are we being hyper-sensitive because we lack an ability to accept other people’s perspectives?  Is our nature to be defensive?  Do we tend to react from an emotional (generally speaking, irrational) place?  If any of these apply, Michler suggests that
“we are missing-out!”  Whether it be taking a negative criticism and turning it in to a learning opportunity, to being able to check your emotions at the door and focus on evidence-based decision making, being offended can bring with it an opportunity for individual growth that should not be missed.

Michler then goes on to talk about root causes.  He breaks down the notion of being offended in to three basic categories: insecurity, guilt and being an ‘idiot’.  With respect to insecurity, this is perhaps the most difficult thing to make one’s peace with because it requires a degree of both emotional intelligence and resiliency.  As to guilt, this one is interesting because we know if we’re guilty of something, and yet it still offends us that someone else can think so little of us!  Finally, when it comes to being an ‘idiot’, that one is simple – some people speak from a place of opinion rather than knowledge.  Thus, you already know they are full of…  you know… so it truly shouldn’t bother you.

So then, if you are among those who get easily offended on a regular basis, Michler suggests the following:

First, always look at the source.  If they lack credibility, shrug it off.  Alternatively, if they are credible and you know them to be well-intentioned and non-malicious, then give them the benefit of the doubt.  Next, avoid people or situations that offend you.  If you are genuinely a sensitive person it’s up to you to change your circumstances to limit those experiences in your own life.  Finally, and most importantly, be grounded in who you are.  So long as you’re living a life based on your principle and conviction, you can always rise above the rest without feeling the need to call people out or get unnecessarily offended.

In short…  let’s dial-back all the rhetoric around ‘being offended’ and take a little more personal ownership with respect to how we respond to the people and situations around us – after all, that’s also a part of living in a democracy!

Justin P. Goodrich is the Managing Partner of Alliance Public & Government Relations.

Previous editions of ‘For The Record’ can be found online at: www.patrika.ca/for-the-record.

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