Easily offended?

July 11, 2021 · Print This Article

It’s been said we live in a snowflake generation. It’s a 2010s word, referring to people who are hypersensitive and easily offended in any perceived or even slightest of ways, especially if their worldview is challenged. Whatever we call it, I think it’s undeniable that our current cultural trend indicates we are more easily offended than ever before.

So it’s not surprising then to discover that broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has reported the highest number of complaints last year than in any other year since it started in 2002. A rise of 410% in the previous 12 months. The top three complaints were Piers Morgan’s comments about Megan Merkel, Diversity’s BLM dance performance on Britain’s Got Talent, and the treatment of animals on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here. We certainly seem to be moving towards a society that readily takes offence.

But is there a better way to live life and react to views that rub up on ours?

I think so. That’s not to say there isn’t a time to be genuinely offended and take the necessary channels of complaint, but if this becomes our default reaction to opposing views it will inevitably lead to greater unhappiness.

The reality is that in a world with such decentralised ways of looking and interpreting the world we live in – the fact we all now have a personal truth, a subjective worldview – then the frequency of meeting a different viewpoint than the one we hold is increasingly likely. Sometimes we will disagree, other times we will detest the ideas espoused by that comedian, politician or religious figure. But we all get to choose our reactions.

We could throw our toys out the pram, stomp on the ground and run to get our comfort blanket, and reassure our own worldview by convincing ourselves that that other person is bigoted or extreme (i.e. the minority holds the distasteful view). And then soothe ourselves as we take to social media, reinforcing our view on the subject with subsequent oxytocin doses as we get affirmation from our own tribe when they hit the like button. But I think there is a pearl of age-old wisdom, simple in theory, maybe harder in practise, that if applied would lead to a happier, more mature place.

The proverb goes something like this, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence.”[1]

In simple terms, it’s ‘put your big boy pants on’ time. In this wisdom is a maturity that is often lacking in public discourse. At the heart of the statement, it says that I am not the only person in this world, where I get to bend reality, including other people’s reality, to my subjective notions of the world. Instead, we live in community made up of other sovereign individuals who have views, values and beliefs that are important to them. And although there is space between my view and theirs, what will make me happier is to fill that space with grace and understanding when I’m triggered by foreign ideas to mine. That way we get to release the negative emotions that otherwise come with being offended.

Suddenly life becomes lighter and freer. Let’s overlook offences more often.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is Editorial Assistant at Because.

[1] The Bible, Proverbs 19:11
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