I’m offended!

No doubt we are offended by much…

A car cuts us off. 

A close friend shares big news with the group before sharing individually with us.

A rude remark is made our presence.

And let’s be clear; in some instances the offense is unquestionably legit.

But let’s be clearer still; sometimes we go into a situation expecting to be offended.

We plan on it. We assume the worst. We instantly see another as opposition. Often before any actual, sincere listening.

We fuel our offense with all sorts of emotion — passion, anger… bitterness, resentment… you name it.

What we often withhold, however, is scrutiny. 

Hence, we fail to ask arguably the most important question…

Does my offense hold up to scrutiny?

Finding a keen, easily-discussable example of offense is not difficult in a society where social media serves as a fragile breeding ground for most every affront. So allow me to make it personal. Let me make it personal in an arena where no doubt, I have absolutely every right to be offended.

On multiple occasions, I have been unfortunately adjacent to a person who has chosen to employ use of the “r-word.” The “r-word” — “retarded” — comes from the Latin word retardare, which means “to make slow, delay, keep back, or hinder.” The word would later be used as a medical term to describe the intellect of a person with a cognitive disability; it actually replaced words such as idiot, imbecile, and moron. Today, the “r-word” is considered hate speech.

I admit: use of the word makes me cringe. Makes me mad. Makes me all sorts of very unpleasant things. As the parent of an amazing young man blessed with an extra chromosome #21, to reduce a description of him to that, is so unseemly, unfair, and wholly inaccurate. Josh has more gifts than I can count and does so many things actually better than me.

So let me again ask the question: does my offense hold up to scrutiny?

Let us first insert an important directive: it is not our place to tell others what they should and shouldn’t be offended about. Note that I am asking (and advocating) the question of self.

Does my offense hold up to scrutiny?

No doubt such a term is dated and demeaning. Its use is inappropriate. 

But what about the articulator of the term? Were they intending to hurt me? Were they intentionally trying to slam my son?

Most always, when the “r-word” is employed in my presence, I allow the other person, absent any interruption, to complete their thought, and then I ask if I can offer some insight — especially as the parent of a son with special needs. I then concisely share the evolution of the word and its current connotation. Far more than nine times out of ten, the sharer is aghast at their own usage; they did not realize they were being so insulting. And when such feedback is shared in a way that is sincere and never attacking of them, it’s amazing the ease at which they are able to hear.

It makes me wonder further still, especially with all these societal breeding grounds for offense…

What would happen if we stopped expecting to be offended?

What education could take place?

And would our individual ability to sincerely listen improve? … maybe even drastically?