Religion isn’t just about God. There’s a new religion called I’m Offended and their idea is to worship labels. Want to join?
Before you answer that question, let’s define religion.
Literally, religion means to return to bondage. The prefix re means “to return,” and the root legare means “to bind.”
It has also been defined as the ultimate expression of social cohesion. Given this approach, Durkheim proposed that religion has three major functions in society: it provides social cohesion to help maintain social solidarity through shared rituals and beliefs, social control to enforce religious-based morals and norms to help maintain conformity and control in society, and it offers meaning and purpose to answer any existential questions. Further, Durkheim placed himself in the positivist tradition, meaning that he thought of his study of society as dispassionate and scientific. He was deeply interested in the problem of what held complex modern societies together. Religion, he argued, was an expression of social cohesion.
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The word religion can be defined as devotion, a system of faith. can mean devotion, the word isn’t just about God. For example, global warming is a religion.
Global warming quickly comes to mind. Some people are true believers, others are “atheists”. For others it’s faith in science or technology, medical science, government, or Wall Street. (That last one is particularly puzzling, because while there are many “believers” right now, most lost their faith in the institution a decade ago.)
But some religions are in attitudes. The religion of <em>I’m offended</em> is a prominent example. Some lean on it as a “savior” to protect themselves from the harsh realities of the world.
But I’m offended is categorically a <em>false religion.</em> Worse, it’s one that can stunt your growth as a person, and impede your progress toward any definition you assign to success.
I’m offended has become a popular hack to earn respect. Whether its male, female, gay, black, vegan, etc., people select a label and make that their identity. But labels can also tear us apart. Can we all just be human? Some think I’m offended brings us closer to being human. But is that really the case?
Let’s examine I’m offended as the false religion it is.
<h2>Offense as a Protective Wall</h2>
I’m offended is a close cousin of political correctness. As Glenn Beck described it – <a href=https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/glenn_beck_410824 target=_blank>political correctness doesn’t change us, it shuts us up</a>.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Beck made the point on political correctness perfectly. Making certain words, phrases, philosophies or beliefs “incorrect” – or even illegal – doesn’t change anything. Closer to the truth, it creates an atmosphere of fear, and causes hostilities to simmer quietly.
True enough, that changes absolutely nothing. It just tightens the lid on a boiling kettle.
So it is with the religion of I’m offended. The fact that you or I are offended by anything at all is simply a perception. Expressing offense at a position you don’t agree with doesn’t make the position go away. It simply sends it underground. And like a seed planted in soil, the negativity it creates will eventually grow into something much bigger.
<strong>What I’m offended really does is create a protective wall around the person making the declaration.</strong> Like the belief in the offense itself, the protective wall is nothing more than a perception. Far from protecting you, <em>it serves mainly as a tool to somehow get revenge on declared offender.</em>
But it also weakens the position of the person who’s offended. The offense taken can speak in a very different direction. Rather than changing the offender’s behavior, it instead conveys the message <em>I’m too fragile to live on a level playing field, and I require special protection.</em>.
That method does little to improve your standing, either with the offender or with anyone else who’s privy to the event. Put another way, <em>if you act fragile, you’ll be treated as fragile.</em>
<strong>Understand that fragile is not equal standing.</strong> It indicates impairment, which is counterproductive to getting the respect you need as a human being.
<h2>I’m Offended is a Relic of Childhood</h2>
At its core, I’m offended is a sign of immaturity. Some kids learn to cope with life by dealing with adversity. Bullying, teasing, difficulties with schoolwork and athletics help prepare the child for the difficulties of adult life.
But some kids cope instead by seeking the protection of authority. Protection from siblings or other kids from parents, or telling the teacher whenever there’s a conflict with another student. It’s counterproductive behavior teaching the child to seek protection, rather than to deal with the circumstance at hand.
Now everyone needs a certain amount of protection in a completely unbalanced situation. That’s certainly true during childhood. But if a child finds repeated success in hiding behind authority for protection, emotional adulthood is delayed.
That should hardly be surprising in 21st-century America. <a href=https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/extended-adolescence-when-25-is-the-new-181/ target=_blank>Extended adolescence</a> is increasingly becoming the rule. That condition is normally associated with a lack of desire to accept responsibility. But seeking protection against all adversaries, great and small, is equally a part.
Once again, the person seeking protection is declaring <em>I can’t compete on a level playing field.</em> That’s a relic from childhood, and has nothing to do with adulthood.
Of course, the legions of I’m offended faithful are getting plenty of help along the way. Colleges and universities – once society’s traditional bastions of free and even radical thought and expression – now offer <a href=https://www.chronicle.com/article/College-Campuses-Should-Not-Be/245505 target=_blank>”safe spaces”</a> to protect the faithful from being offended.
Unfortunately, that’s not the half of it. In <a href=https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2017/08/29/parents-please-dont-attend-your-adult-childs-job-interview/#1ac8e8882a31 target=_blank>Parents, Please Don’t Attend Your Adult Child’s Job Interview</a>, Forbes contributor Amy Morin wrote, <em> “Twenty years ago, parents told their children to get jobs. Ten years ago, parents encouraged their children to get jobs. Now, parents are attending job interviews alongside their children.”</em>
Fragility and I’m offended knows no bounds.
<h2>We’re All Offended – Get Over It!</h2>
Whether you’re living in the real world or worshiping at the altar of I’m offended, you’ll become distinctly aware that life is hard and people are cruel in spite of your best efforts to protect yourself. That being the case, it’s best to let go of I’m offended, and choose instead to deal constructively with any obstacle or difficult person coming across your path.
As <a href=https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/eleanor_roosevelt_161321 target=_blank>Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, <em>”No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.</em> That’s where self-esteem truly originates. When you can hold your head high, secure in the person who you are – despite the many offenses and struggles that come your way – that’s where self-esteem lives, breathes and thrives.
Self-esteem doesn’t come from living in a protected environment. Look at the behavior of any spoiled child you’ve ever known. They can present as having self-esteem as long as everything is going their way. But the minute life changes direction, it’s greeted by denial, a temper tantrum or an emotional breakdown. Each reaction is meant to either soften the blow, or to draw the attention of parents, teachers or other authorities to intervene with protection.
Instead, self-esteem is built on dealing with the difficulties and vagaries of life, and coming to a place of peace with the reality that life isn’t perfect. I like to say we’re imperfect people, living imperfect lives, in an imperfect world. You may not be comfortable with that assessment, but that’s reality.
And reality, unlike other religions, doesn’t care if we believe in it or not.
<h2>In the Real World, No One Cares That You’re Offended</h2>
This is the ultimate dose of cold reality to the devotees of I’m offended. And it’s true, no one really cares. If you go to the authorities and make an issue, you might buy protection for a little while, but only for a little while.
But the time will come when a parent, boss, college administrator, or HR department won’t be around when you’re offended. There are many times in life – more times than not – when you’ll be offended, and there’ll be no one around to protect you.
It could be a social situation, relationship, a conflict with a sibling after the death of your parents, or when you find yourself working in a small company that doesn’t have an HR department to file a complaint with. You’ll be left alone to deal with your offense, and no one – not the alleged offender or anyone else concerned – will intervene to acknowledge the offense you’ve taken.
In life, there’s no alternative to developing a thick skin. The better we’re able to cope with offenses – real or imagined – the better we’ll be at the game of life.
There are two other points to consider carefully:
<li>While you might think you’re on the morally correct side of the situation by being offended, the reality is <em>you’re building enemies.</em> You can only be offended so many times before people will realize you’re really a weakling. That can only hurt your standing in the people group in question.
<li>Sometimes <em>you’re the offender!</em> As the saying goes, <em>what goes around comes around.</em> And if you go around being offended, eventually someone will come around and be offended by something you said or did. You’ll then experience one of those humbling moments where you come face-to-face with your own principles.
<h2>The Bigger Picture Issue with I’m Offended No One Sees</h2>
One of the biggest problems with the religion of I’m offended is that it causes us to cooperate with forces we don’t understand.
Our country is beset with major problems. Healthcare and health insurance are generally unaffordable, a retirement crisis is brewing, the government is operating in major deficits even in a time of suppose it economic prosperity, and we seem to be either at war or at odds with nations and tribes all over the world.
All of this should bother us more deeply than being offended by one another. But that’s really the problem – if we think of one another as <em>the problem,</em> we don’t focus on the real issues.
For example, if we think the real divisions are over race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or lifestyle, we focus on opposing one another, rather than on solutions for our biggest problems.
If you’ve ever wondered why we seem to be beset by multiple crises, and nothing ever gets fixed, you should be aware that the religion of I’m offended is playing a big part in the lack of solutions. As a nation, we have virtually no consensus over how to deal with our biggest issues. But that’s a natural outcome when we’re busy bickering with one another, and elevating imaginary offenses.
If the leadership are looking for a way to divert everyone’s attention from the problems that aren’t being solved, the religion of I’m offended is a brilliant strategy. If you’re falling for the diversion, you’re actually making the problems worse, not better.
If you take nothing else out of this article, please consider at least that much.
<h2>Forget About Being Offended and Get on with Your Life</h2>
If you find yourself being offended by what other people do or say, it’s a mindset you need to let go of. It won’t improve your life, earn you more respect from others, or even make you feel better about yourself. Even worse, it’ll make you continually dependent upon the protection of others. That can’t possibly help you to learn and grow in your life.
Instead of being offended, work harder at being the best <em>you</em> you can be. Acknowledge that this is real life, <strong>and you will be offended,</strong> and you must learn to deal with that reality. The more comfortable you become with potentially offensive situations and people, the more easily you’ll be able to roll with the punches. Flexibility is one of the most important (though underrated) factors in human success. Learning to take potentially offensive situations with grace and humility is part of that flexibility.
If someone does offend you, practice forgiveness. Other religions declare <a href=https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+19%3A11&version=NIV target=_blank>“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”</a>
One day you may be declared to be the offender by another member of the religion of I’m offended. Grant anyone who offends you the benefit of forgiveness, and maybe it’ll come back your way at the right time. Karma? Don’t doubt it.
Finally, the religion of I’m offended hasn’t been around for more than a few years, so try not to take it too seriously. You have no idea how long it will last, and when it will fall into the dustbin of history with so many other would-be religions.