***Please do not assume that anything written below has to do with situations of actual malice. Circumstances when someone says or does truly awful things that demeans another group of people via racism, ableism, etc. should always be confronted.***
We have the option to be offended.
There’s a thought process that occurs when we hear something that doesn’t sit right with us. During that process, we can decide that what has been said has nothing do with us and has no bearing on our life, or we can act on impulsive feelings in a hostile, unproductive way.
Not every statement is an attack. A woman who vocally celebrates breast feeding an entire year is not putting down women who didn’t or couldn’t breast feed. She’s just proud of herself for sticking to it that long. Someone who says something in an obvious attempt to be helpful, but accidentally puts their foot in their mouth doesn’t need to be given a full dressing down. A woman who states that she prefers to stay home with her young children, rather than work, is not putting down all working moms. This could go on.
People are searching for ways to be offended.
Admit it: we humans love feeling wronged. There’s a sense of righteousness and superiority that takes over, if we choose to bask in being offended.
In today’s online culture, there seems to be an unspoken competition of who can point out something from a different angle and be the person holding the red marker that marks a giant “X.”
There are productive ways to point out blind spots.
While this “X” marking is largely unproductive, there are many situations where it can be productive.
My best friend is a realtor. Recently, I was telling her that I’ve seen many people describe their master bedroom as the “main bedroom” or “primary bedroom.” After hearing this a few times, I learned some background to this change:
The term “master bedroom” comes from pre-Civil War plantation life. In fact, the Real Estate Board of New York is planning a vote soon that will ban the term from public listings.
I explained all of this to my friend, pointing out that it doesn’t seem like this has started in the deep South, yet, so I wanted to inform her. Her response: “That makes complete sense and I’m going to stop using that term.”
The unproductive, more common way this would play out: Three months from now, my best friend lists a house with the term “master bedroom” in the description online. Someone comments that she’s a racist for using that term, then someone else comments that’s stupid, then more trolls join the comments. Where does that get us?
It’s kind of a privilege.
One of my mentors is a personal injury attorney. She got several calls over the last couple years of people feeling they were treated unfairly in their workplaces because they were being asked about their COVID-19 vaccination status. Many claimed they were offended that they were even being asked and felt they were treated differently for not answering, but could give no real examples of that. They all wanted to know if they had a potential lawsuit.
One day, my mentor threw her hands up. She was sick of people wasting her time for having their feelings hurt over being asked a few questions during a pandemic. She went on to explain all the times she was blatantly, tangibly discriminated against for being a black woman in the corporate world years ago and how ridiculous the world has gotten.
That really put things into perspective for me.
Give people grace
It’s very unlikely that any of us have made it through life without putting our foot in our mouths and not even been aware. Give grace and when you truly feel something needs to be said, do it in a productive, non-finger pointing way.