It seems like everyone is offended about something today. Wherever someone voices a decided opinion, there’s someone else reacting to it defensively. In an effort not to offend anyone, we’re turning into a society where we talk around issues rather than addressing them directly. We couch our opinions in careful language like, “From my own personal view …” and “I don’t want to force an opinion on you, it’s just my thoughts that …”.
Why are we so quick to see offense as a bad thing in today’s culture? If it’s just because we don’t like to be made uncomfortable, then we’re missing valuable opportunities for personal growth. Being offended offers a challenge to how we think. For people who are open to questioning, growth, and refinement, being challenged is a good thing. For people who just want to float through life without wondering “why?”, offense is scary.
The next time you feel offended, don’t look at it as a bad thing. See it as an opportunity for self-examination. It’s a chance to look inside yourself and find out why you’re having such a strong, defensive emotional reaction to what you just saw or heard. Ask yourself things like,
- Is this important enough to be offended about?
- If no, why am I so defensive?
- If yes, how do I turn my offense into something more productive?
- Am I offended by this because it makes me feel guilty about something I’m doing wrong? (plank in your own eye, speck in your brother’s …)
- Does anyone else care that I care about this?
- Would sharing my thoughts on this just stir up unproductive strife? (If yes, don’t do it!)
- Is the thing I feel offended about something that’s hurting other people?
- If yes, what can I do to stop it? (For example, being offended that human trafficking exists doesn’t help; you’d need to fight against it or support those who do.)
- Is the idea/statement that offends me actually true, regardless of how I feel?
Offense is unproductive by itself, but when we feel offended we have a chance to transcend knee-jerk reactions and use it as a tool for self-examination, growth and motivation. We can look inside ourselves and see if our offended reaction points to something we need to change, and we can look outside ourselves for opportunities to actively make the world a better place.