Next time you feel offended….

….ask yourself this: “What was the intent behind the offensive words/image?” And then, unless the answer is, “To make me feel bad about me”, can I ask you to do something really simple and just move on?

So often, every day, someone is offended.  The list of ‘offensive’ things is growing exponentially, and what is humanity really gaining from it???? Better social awareness, maybe, but at what cost? What are we losing?? I can think of a couple of things: honest commentary, genuine curiosity, gentle tolerance, senses of humour, talking points, challenging opinions, growth beyond preconceived notions…. you get my point.

These days people get so offended by things that just are not offensive.  Like questions about their life that are asked from a place of genuine, simple curiosity.  Or comments that, yes, they’ve heard a thousand times before and yes, get sick of answering every single day, but seriously, what does it really cost you to hear or answer it again???

I’m going to use an easy example, because its one I get a lot: ‘Oh, you have a boy and a girl? That’s fantastic, you’re so lucky, a pigeon pair, no need to go back for more!’

I have actually read articles (blogs) where the writer has berated the friend/family member/innocent stranger for making these types of comments and said things like, ‘I wish people would just keep their opinions to themselves!’ or ‘This is so hurtful to someone who then feels like having two of the same gender makes them ‘unlucky’!”

Seriously? 

A person says something positive to you … says you are lucky or blessed for some aspect of your life….and you are offended???   What’s the intent behind their comment?  Probably they just felt happiness looking at your kids and thought that a boy and a girl means you enjoy the best of both worlds.  They wanted to compliment your kids.  They wanted to say something nice to you.

Their intent was innocent and positive.

So, if you don’t appreciate what they’ve said or even if you disagree with it – would it kill you to just smile and say ‘Thanks’?

Can you imagine what a beautiful, friendly place the world would be if we all just took kind and innocent comments and questions at their face value and just said ‘Thanks’?

I know I now hesitate to make small talk with strangers in case anything I say could ‘offend’ them…like asking a friend if/when they plan to have babies.  Or get married.  Heaven forbid I should express any interest in their life, for fear they might be offended.  Here’s the thing: by asking a person “So are you and X planning on having kids?”, doesn’t mean there is an implied second sentence along the lines of “Because people who don’t have kids are shit“.  And perhaps you are struggling with infertility, and I do understand the pain of that question in that situation… but its still just an innocent question from a person who has interest in you.  Take the positive from it and simply say “We hope to one day.” Or even better, if you’re comfortable, say something like “We would love to have children one day and hope it happens soon.”

Or, the dreaded, “Oh wow twins! I always thought it would be cool to have twins!” doesn’t have the unspoken “Because it must be just easy and fun all the time” following along.  And yep, you get it a lot.  Its eye-roll worthy.  But unless you’re getting it a lot from the same person, they don’t know that, and so would it kill you to just be nice? Feel thankful that this person has genuine interest in you and cares and wants to have a bit of conversation?

We constantly worry about how silent and secretive our teenagers are – why don’t they talk to us more – or talk to each other – and yet all day every day we are bombarded by people getting ‘offended’ by things that are SIMPLY NOT MEANT TO BE OFFENSIVE … these same articles and blogs are making it abundantly clear that its better to just say nothing to anyone.  Just keep your mouth shut.  Except talk to me, now. Right? Confusing much? I wonder how often the troubled teen wants to talk to someone but is scared to open up in case they say the wrong thing, upset someone, get misunderstood and get in trouble….

I get that ignorance can breed offence.  If you have a child with ASD for example and someone comments on their behaviour…. now if that comment is a negative one, that is something that has offensive intent so go ahead and be offended.  But if it is an innocent comment or question because the speaker simply doesn’t understand or know, that doesn’t make them a bad person does it? So why not use that opportunity to build awareness and knowledge by being gentle and kind in your response?  You can correct their misconception or misunderstanding without making them feel stupid or upset; the result is one more person who does understand and is far more likely to go on and positively educate others, as opposed to someone who walks away angry and humiliated, thinking “I never meant to upset anyone and got made to feel embarrassed”, and feeling nothing but negative feelings towards the situation in question.

Because after all, conversation between people is the best and easiest way to build new friendships, spread awareness, give joy and make the world a better place. Help each other, guide each other, support one another.  Isn’t it?

And if the person did mean something horrible by what they said…. then, still, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could be the bigger person, rise above it and just say ‘Thanks’? That would probably be more effective anyway because a) they didn’t get a rise out of you so they failed and b) you look like the classy and mature contributor to the transaction.

I’m not referring to when people say overtly mean things.  Or make racist or sexist comments or “Jokes” – those times are never OK and the speaker should be called out and know that you do not find their words acceptable.  Go for it.

But for the hundreds and HUNDREDS of times an innocent remark is made that maybe you find boring or repetitive or don’t necessarily agree with but it doesn’t impact you in any actual way…. just smile and say ‘Thanks’. And move on with your day.

For humanity’s sake.

x S

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