It’s OK to Stop Worrying About Offending the Offensive
Why are we so worried about offending the offensive? Should there be a purity test for when we should just cut a bigoted person loose?
There are things you’re told not to talk about at the dinner table: politics, religion…I’m sure there are others, likely related to sex stuff.
We’ve been conditioned not to rock the boat when we’re around folks that we just can’t put our finger on.
Uncle Joe might be a little bit…right-leaning, so keep things light if you know what’s good for you.
Grandma Ruth comes from a different time. She doesn’t know any better, so she may say things that aren’t super politically correct these days.
So we give these people a pass, year in and year out, Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving. We pass the dinner rolls, we share meaningless anecdotes about the time your dog farted itself awake, and drive home wondering why we feel so vacant inside.
Is this still appropriate in this moment?
Should we be putting our friends and family up to more stringent standards when it comes to their belief systems?
Is there a purity test out there to decide what level of bigotry you’re comfortable with?
Because if you don’t bring up the things that matter, how can a relationship move beyond the surface level?
Sometimes it’s easy to find out where people’s loyalties lie, especially if they’re on social media. Or they just don’t give a damn because they are who they are and bask in that misery.
But sometimes things are a little harder to decipher.
You’re hanging out with someone you haven’t seen in a while, and they drop an off-color comment that you’re pretty sure was offensive, but maybe, just maybe, they didn’t mean it that way.
Or they drop some “knowledge” on you that you know is just not true, because you have comprehension skills and don’t gather information from memes.
They’re generally likable otherwise, and you thought you had some overlapping interests before this moment.
So now what?
I’m going to argue that you don’t really know a person until you know a person.
That means all of that person, the warts and wall.
It’s only then that you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth maintaining a relationship with that person, or perhaps whether you want to put some work in to enlighten them on some things.
On a deeper level, how are you supposed to develop a relationship with someone whose fundamental values don’t align with your own?
Do you even have time for people like this in your life?
I’ve been learning that no, I don’t have the time for toxic humans in my life, and I need to remedy that. Generally, I have a strong group of friends around me who I trust, and whose opinions I value.
We certainly don’t always agree, and don’t need to. But our core values align.
And here’s the key: We’re comfortable calling each other out if one or the other says something sketchy, or misses a bias, or presents our friendship group with obvious misinformation.
But there are others on the periphery who should be served their notice.
Are you still tip-toeing around people in your own life?
Why is that?
Why are we so scared about offending people who we know are offensive to their core?
It’s not our job to keep the peace, whether that’s at the Thanksgiving table or within our friendship circles.
It’s not our job to educate every human we come in contact with who holds outdated views on race, sex, gender, education, science, the environment, and the list goes on and on.
If you want to do the work to try to change some hearts and minds, that’s honorable, but it requires a level of patience I don’t have consistently. The thing is, many just aren’t open to hearing it.
I have some dark spots in my family that I’ll need to address at some point, but they’re not who I’d call in an emergency, either.
Do the work if it gives you purpose.
But don’t beat yourself up over having to cut a few loose in the process.