One of the new employees at the thrift store sported a tee-shirt that was emblazzoned with “Warning Offensive”. I was not offended at all by the shirt nor the young man wearing it. I did a double-take and could only smile at the irony of the slogan on a run of the mill tee-shirt. When it was time to pay for the cheap vase that I’d discovered, I smiled and complimented the employee about his shirt. He grinned back, thanked me, and proudly mentioned that it was an “in-house purchase”.

During the drive back home, I reflected upon the variety of clothing that Goodwill employees in my town wear. Most of their work wardrobe is recycled clothing acquired from in-store stock. When an employee wants to purchase an item of merchandise, it must have been on display on the sales floor for at least one day. If it remains on regular display the next day, the employee may purchase it. So, the new employee’s tee-shirt was acquired by obeying the same rule. He liked the shirt so much that it was worth the wait and the risk that a customer might buy it first.

Each day we risk feeling offended about something. When we indulge in feeling outrage, especially about petty things, we allow something or someone to take power over our emotional state. The humorous tee-shirt was a friendly reminder about this fact. When we take a reasonably objective point of view, we do not hunt for occasions to feel offended. We are in a calm state of mind that is not judging and labeling other people. This allows us to be free of manipulation by outward appearances. This is a sign of personal power and strength.

“When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet in his private heart no man much respects himself.”–Mark Twain

Regardless of political and religious persuasion, people seem to be in a contest to corner the market about being offended. We see and hear this in today’s hot-button issue political and religious environments. Popular advocates of opposing sides of controversial issues are fond of “owning” the other side and calling one another “snowflakes”. If the topics weren’t so potentially dangerous, the quarreling would be humorous. I’m guessing that this aspect provides a fair amount of fuel for stand-up comedians’ jokes.

There is a better than even chance that I may have unknowingly offended someone at some time regarding blog topic choice and my opinions. Anyone who puts her or himself out into the public sphere runs that risk. After all, each person has an individually chosen sense of propriety and humor. These are put to the test when we encounter something unfamiliar, or surprising. When a point of view varies widely from one’s own, then feeling offended comes to the fore.

In the years when I was music director at radio stations, I was sternly instructed to never put “offensive songs” into on-air rotation. Not only did I run the risk of offending someone in the audience, but there was the possibility of rising the ire of the Federal Communications Commission. Naturally, I had to avoid songs that included the “F-word”, “controversial bodily functions”, advocacy of drug use, and “subversive” political opinions. If FCC rules and guidelines were breached, the station could face severe monetary and regulatory repurcussions.

It was a common occurance that I’d have to justify my playlists to the program director or the general manager after anyone complained about particular songs. This was the least pleasant part of the job, because I was paid to judge whether or not somebody might be offended by something contained in perfectly good, popular music. Regardless of what tune was placed into rotation, inevitably somebody would find a bone to pick about it. I had to come up with a valid reason to keep the song on the air. Thankfully, in most cases, management agreed with my opinions. On those rare occasions when the bosses felt twinges of offense, I had to remove the music from the playlist. Their verdicts were final and absolute. If the audience wished to listen to banned music, they would have to tune in to a different radio station or buy their own copies.

All things considered, the world is full to the brim with people, political parties, religions, minorities, organizations. Whichever way we turn, we might offend someone or be offended ourselves. We run the risk of being percieved as jerks or snowflakes. In my opinion, the way to lessen the toxicity of our actions and speech, is to authentically and mindfully act and speak out of civility and kindness. We need not worry about what offends us. It is wise not to expect lives of prolonged emotional ease and comfort. This keeps us from shrinking at the first signs of difficulty. Being slow to blame and swift to forgive allow us to take life in stride.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the ancient Stoic philosopher, Epictetus. “When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Controversy, cultural highlights, Entertainment, Hometown, Meanderings, music, Politics, religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Offensive

  1. Pingback: ReBlogging ‘Offensive’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

  2. “Regardless of political and religious persuasion, people seem to be in a contest to corner the market about being offended.” – I think this is spot-on.

    Also, it is interesting to read about your experience balancing appropriate and offensive, along with the FCC guidelines, in the context of the radio station.

  3. tiostib says:

    Thank you for the timely reminder.

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