Are You Easily Offended?

From social media to pop culture, race, religion, and politics, so many of the top news stories today feature controversy sparked by what a famous person said or did. It seems that almost everything that is expressed publicly is bound to offend someone.

November 3, 2015
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From social media to pop culture, race, religion, and politics, so many of the top news stories today feature an outrage, backlash, or controversy sparked by what a famous person said or did. It seems that almost everything that is expressed publicly is bound to offend someone.

As I’ve observed this phenomenon, I’ve pondered whether we as a society are too sensitive or thrive on being offended. My own views are that culturally, we actually lean more toward being insensitive, and that overall, we still can improve in being kind and empathetic to other people. Still, I acknowledge that oversensitivity exists and that it can become quite problematic for those who experience it.

Have you ever realized how easy it is to deem someone else as being overly sensitive? It’s much more productive to take a look in the mirror and self-reflect rather than pass judgment. Here are a few things to consider to determine whether or not you yourself are perhaps too easily offended, and if so, how you can manage this tendency:

First, I invite you to consider whether or not your being offended is an ongoing pattern. As human beings, we will naturally all have our feelings hurt at times. But pause to reflect on whether or not you are habitually feeling left out, resentful, hurt, or otherwise offended in your relationships. If you are frequently offended, do a little self-inquiry to explore why that might be the case. Look inward to gain insight about what might cause you to be highly sensitive.

Following up with determining whether you are often offended, dig a little deeper and ask whether or not there is more to the story. Those who have their feelings hurt easily may sometimes be recreating an old wound. Trauma and other painful events can heighten our sensitivity and vulnerability to certain situations. For example, jokes that demean or objectify women are never appropriate or funny, but may be especially painful for someone who was physically or sexually abused. Try to look at yourself holistically and understand the context and the backstory to make sense of your experience.

Another thing to ask yourself is what you can gain from remaining offended. I’ve noticed how sometimes people hold onto pain because it makes them feel justified as someone who’s been wronged. We like to be right about how we view ourselves, and so we may inadvertently perpetuate our own suffering by prolonging the offense. Then, ask yourself what you could gain by giving up the offense. I’ve worked with clients in psychotherapy who, after carrying heavy burdens for far too long, finally can let things go to find healing, forgiveness, and peace. It’s not always easy to give up a grudge, but the things you gain from doing so can make it worth it.

Finally, if you still find yourself being repeatedly offended, determine what it is that you need for closure. Sometimes we can simply talk ourselves out of our own hurt (Think: “It’s okay. She didn’t mean it.” or “This too, shall pass.”), but other times, we may need to take action. Maybe having a conversation with someone, setting a boundary, venting frustration out at the gym, or even writing feelings in a journal can help you get over whatever it is that is bothering you.

Being offended is inevitable, but staying offended for long periods of time is a choice. I encourage you to look inward, weigh the costs and benefits of holding on to your hurt (hint: it’s usually not worth it!), and then doing what you need to in order to be free of the emotional burden and find happiness again.

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