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TFL 010 150 150 Ben Coker

The Psychology of Taking Offence

The Rise of the Professional ‘Offence Taker’

I’ve noticed recently the Police have been called out on the grounds some individual has ‘been caused offence’ by someone else. Now, there are some laws about disturbing the peace and keeping public order which might apply if this wasn’t just an individual matter – but there is also an offence of ‘wasting police time’.

It seems to me ‘taking offence’ has become something of a fashion. We are of course completely free, if this is what we choose, to be ‘offended’ by someone or something or to make it our business to ‘offend’ someone else but we must remember our giving or taking offence is absolutely nothing to do with the other party or with anyone else. It’s an internal matter -it’s OUR problem. We choose to be offended or not – “if the cap fits” as the saying goes.

Then there’s the matter of the ‘professional offence takers’ who make it their business to be offended on behalf of others and objecting quite strenuously to certain words in the English language on the grounds ‘someone’ might be offended or upset when they are used – the nonsense of Puffin Books rewriting Raold Dahl springs to mind.

Why people take offence on behalf of others is something of a mystery. It would make a good psychology doctoral paper if it hasn’t been done already! Perhaps it gives them a feeling of power, of being able to control, or attempt to control, what others do and say and as far as I can see there is quite a lot of self-importance involved here. But what about the people on behalf of whom they are ‘taking offence’ at conversations or actions the supposed ‘offendees’ are likely neither aware of or involved with. I have many friends and acquaintances in these supposed ‘offendee’ groups and those with whom I’ve discussed it generally find this proxy offence taking somewhere between highly amusing and highly annoying – “what right have they to take offence on my behalf?”

Here’s a question. Is it offensive to someone to take offence on their behalf? How would you feel if someone did this to you about something which didn’t offend you at all, effectively dictating you should be offended?

We are all different. We all have different ways of doing things and going about our daily lives. It seems there are some people who find these differences – the things we do and they don’t – in some way ‘offensive’. We, and they, need to understand this is not our problem but theirs. You and I do what we do and say what we say. If others choose to be offended by this it’s not our fault (unless we do it deliberately to ‘wind them up’ for some reason).

Whether people are feeling offended for themselves or on behalf of others then THEY have a problem and should be seeking to resolve it rather than spending their time and effort infecting other people with this disease of offence taking, forcing their insecurities and their shortcomings on others.

It is not in our spiritual nature to ‘take offence’. When we see or hear something we are programmed to take the information on board as an experience and then accept or reject it. ‘Offence’ just isn’t part of the equation. If we do feel ‘offended’ it simply means we don’t ‘like’ what we are seeing or hearing so we just need to reject it – bin it – rather than keeping it on board like some sort of emotional virus; which is what the professional offence takers are, for their own reasons and agendas, spreading as widely as they can.

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