What is the mechanism of Offensiveness?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

      It is impossible to be offended by anyone else, or to offend another person. This seems like a shocking and counterintuitive statement, but when we examine the mechanism of offensiveness, it may become one with which you will agree.

     Without a doubt, there are many things that we find offensive. Some guy was wearing a T-shirt in the grocery store yesterday that I found highly offensive. Whenever I see or hear an advertisement that uses fear in an attempt to get me to buy their product, my blood begins to boil. Would you have found these situations offensive?

     The man in the grocery store was a total stranger, so the likelihood of his intending to offend me was somewhere between zero and zilch. Likewise, while advertisers may strive to appeal to a particular segment of the market, they do not have any particular individual in mind when they put out their message.

     Let's look at the other side of the coin. If someone's face turns red and they begin to grit their teeth after I  have done or said something, it would be a fair assumption that they are feeling offended. So who's responsible for their reaction? Well, if I intended the offense, then I would be guilty as charged. Still, the success of my nefarious adventure was only possible because I touched some vulnerability within them. Far more often of course, we offend others inadvertently, and for this we cannot be held responsible.

     There are a number of possible reactions when we feel offended. We can get huffy and strike back, we can ignore the offender and walk away, we might make a joke of it, or we can realize that the offense was in all likelihood not personal and therefore unworthy of attention at all.

     Perhaps the most valuable reaction to either feeling offended or unintentionally being behind the offense taken by another person is to learn from the experience. What, exactly, is it within me or other person that was triggered? The search would require careful self-examination or the use of good communication skills to determine what went on in the other person's mind. When found, one has the opportunity to consider changing.

     Offensiveness, like anxiety, can be a good thing. I hope the time never comes when we fail to be offended by an insult to human dignity, by examples of outright selfishness and greed or by the deliberate infliction of physical or mental anguish.
     And I certainly hope that no one has found these comments offensive.

This entry was posted on May 17, 2011 at Tuesday, May 17, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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