In the iconic television series Star Trek, Captain Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew would travel to new planets, beam down to the surface, and learn about their societies. Spock was from the planet Vulcan, and most of us know the Vulcan greeting that he often used, “Live long and prosper.” We as Americans should consider what saying space visitors would associate with us if they beamed down to the United States today. Our national motto is technically “In God We Trust,” but unfortunately there is another statement that seems far more common in our country today. “I am offended.”
The list of things that people in America find offensive is endless. I don’t even think our alien visitors would enjoy being here because of the eggshells we have to walk on to avoid public shaming or worse. Even using the word “alien” is now considered offensive by some. This constant state of feeling offended not only makes that person unbearable to be around, but it makes them less happy. Imagine how much joy it would take out of life if you went to a comedy show and instead of finding the jokes funny you found them offensive.
I have good news for you, though. There is a solution to being offended all the time. Simply choose not to be offended. Yes, you heard me right. Being offended is a choice. I have even come up with a saying to help me decide whether or not I should feel offended. Don’t be offended unless offense is intended.
Notice I did not say that you should never be offended. There are certainly times when you should be. If somebody purposely impugns your character, their intent was to offend you. If somebody calls you a loser then you should take offense. My little proverb is meant to keep you from wasting your time, energy, and likeability on complaining about jokes, harmless comments, or even things that you disagree about. People should be able to disagree with each other and not feel offended.
The problem today is that people go around looking for things to find offensive. There are women who feel offended if a man opens a door for her. There are people who are offended by the Mark Twain classic Huckleberry Finn. There are even people who are offended by a new television show on ABC about girls getting kidnapped on a highwaybecause the girls who get kidnapped are not Indians. Using my rule none of those examples should be offensive because an offense was not intended.
There is now a term for these types of offenses. They call them microaggressions. The psychologist who popularized the term, Dr. Derald Wing Sue, even explained in a video that “Microaggressions occur because they are outside the level of conscious awareness of the perpetrator.” That means that not only does the perpetrator not intend to offend you, but that you would have to explain to them why you’re offended. If you often find yourself having to explain why you are offended that probably means your pain is self-inflicted.
Let’s put my advice into practice and try some examples to test if we should be offended by them.
Example #1: Somebody says “Merry Christmas” to you. You are not a Christian.
Response: Do not be offended. Their intention was to be nice.
Example #2: Somebody asks you for help on a math problem. You are Asian.
Response: Do not be offended. Maybe they weren’t thinking about your race. Maybe they were. It doesn’t matter. The intent was to get a math problem right.
Example #3: Your friend Fred sits next to you at a blackjack table. The dealer calls him “sir” without learning his gender identity first.
Response: Do not be offended. The intent was to politely address him. Oops. I just said “him” without realizing it.
Example #4: Somebody says that “All lives matter.”
Response: Do not be offended. I doubt that their intention was to say that anybody’s life doesn’t matter. Thus the word all.
Example #5: Somebody says that you can be put into a basket of deplorables.
Response: You can be offended because calling somebody deplorable is certainly intended to impugn their character.
Now you have a guideline to go by, so the next time you see a George Washington statue, you should be able to fight the urge to cry and tear it down. You know that the intent of the statue was not to brag that he owned slaves. Choose not to be offended. Hopefully, this advice will help the United States become a more pleasant place for our visitors from space. If instead, you choose to remain constantly offended, Mr. Spock will probably find you highly illogical.