Taking offence – especially when none was intended – has always been a problem. It was happening at least 2000 years ago: we have examples of this found in the gospels. Sadly the most inoffensive man on earth was nonetheless causing offence. It was not because Jesus was offensive as such, but because people did not like what he had to say. Consider just a few passages. In Matthew 13:53-58 we read . . . And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence. And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, “Whence has this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? When then has this man all these things?” And they were offended in him, but Jesus said unto them, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” And he did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Taking offence has long been with us, but there is no question that it has become an art form today. We now have millions of people who seem to be perpetually offended, and entire industries have sprung up to cater for the ever-offended: the offence industry is just as real as a nation’s defence industry. We have an entire generation of offended snowflakes who melt at the slightest hint of truth to which they happen to be exposed. Some examples are . . .
· A trans activist will take offence if you say there are only two sexes and they are biologically fixed.
· A militant secularist will be offended any time a Christian speaks out in public.
· A covid panic merchant will be offended if you don't wear a mask when you're alone in your car.
· A lesbian couple will take offence if you say children have a fundamental right to their own biological parents.
· A Muslim will be offended if you speak of Jesus being God’s Son.
· A pro-abortionist will take offence when you say unborn babies have a right to life.
· A Black Lives Matter activist will take offence if you say white lives matter too.
· A climate alarmist will take offence if you point out that climate has always changed and how much of this is due to human activity is debatable.
There is no limit to the number of things that offend people today, and it's not enough for them to just feel offended. The cancel culture that goes with it is scary stuff indeed: it's enough to shut down speakers, meetings, classes, schools, institutions and businesses, and the one who 'caused' the offence must be punished. In Australia and other Western nations there are various vilification laws being passed which mean you will be prosecuted by the State if you have caused offence to any number of minority groups. If they simply feel bad or embarrassed or hurt, that can be enough to see the 'offender' being charged. Instead of simply recognising that in any society there will always be differences (including differences of opinion, and learning to live with them) these forever-offended types appear to go out of their way to be offended, and to seek out offenders.
Australian writer Anthony Dillon stated it very well some eight years ago in a piece titled “Choosing to Be Offended”. He begins: “Our right to express opinions, question the motives of others, or simply express disapproval, has copped a hammering in recent times. Australians are being gagged. Saying the 'wrong' (ie: unpopular) thing has got some people into trouble and silenced many others. Many, like myself, when wanting to express a concern because we feel something isn’t quite right, sometimes decide it just isn’t worth it. All it takes is for one person to say “You’ve offended me” and any reasonable discussion shuts down . . . People are increasingly being monitored in what they can say or do because of the concern that their words or actions will offend others. It would seem that being offended places one in a position of power”.
The increased controlling and monitoring of what people can say and do is apparently done with the intention of protecting vulnerable groups and individuals. Protecting the vulnerable from harm is admirable, but much of what is considered harm is laughable. And for those incidents where an element of racism is concerned, there are better ways of dealing with them that are more empowering for the target of racist comments than the current strategy of convincing people from minority groups that they are so fragile they need special protection.
People who are not offended see the supposedly offending events for what they really are, and therefore have no need to feel threatened by them. Others are quick to take offence and believe that the offence has been caused by the 'offending' person or event, but for those who either remain unconvinced that we have a choice in how we respond to the actions of others or feel it is just too hard, consider the experience and wisdom of Victor Frankl. He was a prisoner in the Nazi death camps who had the following insight based on his experiences: “Everything can be taken from a man except one: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”