Why Are You Offended?

Why do people get offended? In the presence of the actions, beliefs or words of other people that we find distasteful or undesirable, why do we not simply walk away? What I find interesting is that our emotions and self-esteem seem so wrapped up in the appraisal of others. If another person holds different views or beliefs than we do, or is engaging in behaviors that we find distasteful, why don’t we just walk away or ignore them? That we feel an emotional reaction of offense is an indication that we are taking the existence of this other person in a very personal way, and internalizing it. We are basically saying “I am not strong enough to assert my own opinions or beliefs, even within my own mind, in the presence of counter opinions or beliefs”.

Being offended just doesn’t make sense; it seems mostly a sign of intellectual weakness, lack of personal strength or convictions, or lack of emotional maturity. If I am around someone doing an activity or saying things that I think are wrong or distasteful or harmful or unethical, I just choose to leave, or not acknowledge them beyond simple recognition. It is a rational process, of recognizing a stimuli or situation that I do not prefer to be around, and then finding a way to rid myself of that stimuli or situation, if I so desire. I do not feel offended by these actions of other people. I do not feel threatened or afraid or angry. I experience only the recognition of my own personal beliefs and the reasons why I hold those beliefs.

To feel these sorts of emotions with respect to the actions or words of others, especially when these other people’s behavior has nothing at all to do with you or your life, is a sign that you have very low self-esteem, and very weak or fragile convictions. In the presence of people who are not in agreement with you, just the mere display of counter beliefs or activities that you do not desire or agree with is enough to trigger a threat reaction. You get angry, hurt, self-conscious, morally outraged – in short, emotionally invested. But assuming these actions are not impacting your life, why do you have this reaction? Is it just a fault of the brain’s internalizing what we experience and making it personal, even when it is not?

I think this is a large part of it. What we experience is taken within and turned into a part of us. If these experiences are at severe contrast or conflict with other parts of our internal “landscapes”, this generates pressure and dissonance. These then trigger emotions, intended to convey the presence of a threat. However, this just explains the instinctive first response to these sorts of situations; it does not explain the entire experience of being offended.

People see a religious symbol on a building, or hear a profanity uttered, or see a graphic depiction of violence or sex, or any similar type of situation, and they tie this experience into their personal worldview by allowing it to affect them in a personal way. They pronounce judgment upon it, but at the same time reveal their inability to overcome or fight against it by the fact that it injures them so much, that it is perceived as such a threat. If I experience any of those sorts of situations that I find distasteful, I just leave, or go do something else. I do not let it control my life or determine who I am. But when you get offended by these sorts of things, you are letting it define you and control you; and in this sense, it is stronger than you are, and you expose your inability to either “fight” it off or assert your own worldview or self-esteem in the presence of counterveiling opinions.

It is natural to feel an instinctive gut reaction of revile or disgust when exposed to certain experiences. But to let this instinctive reaction, which is just a recognition that the experience is in conflict with your held worldview or beliefs, go on to define you is a sign of personal fault and lack of integrity, strength, conviction, and emotional maturity. There is no reason to feel offended by the actions or words of other people. Just walk away, or ignore it; it does not impact your life. Or if you are very passionate about the fact that you disagree with what another person is doing, talk to them about it, “fight” against it in a rational and effective manner, and express your belief on the subject. But to feel personally offended, hurt or angry just because another person is different than you are is completely childish.

People getting offended by whatever that may be, shows to me that person’s weaknesses - any negative aspect/reaction to anything is a weakness in that person’s psyche!

I think it’s OK to be offended by something, and it’s up to the individual to privately process their response to whatever has caused the offense. What’s not OK is to try to impose your world view on someone else, such as reacting outwardly to what has offended you, or trying to ‘correct’ the situation to match how you think the situation should be - that may offend someone else!!

Is anyone offended by the lack of discussion on this topic??

Nope, but clearly you are, hence you asking the question. And now you have reacted outwardly to that which has offended you and trying to, “correct,” the situation (by posting in this thread again) to match how you think the situation should be. This, as you said is, “Not OK,” and, “…May offend someone else,” but it doesn’t offend me, so we’re good.

In all serious, though, I think that is is fine to react outwardly to an offense and it is mostly a question of both form and extent which must be reasonable given the offense. For instance, if I use a profane word in someone else’s house and that offends them it is perfectly fair for them to ask me to refrain from doing that (even if it is an accident) but to slap me across the face (just as an example) might be a little extreme given the offense.

Surely, you consider slapping you across the face to be extreme because that would offend YOU !

Philosophy is a complete nonsense, and people who engage it it’s persuit are intellectual nazis, unable to cope with the real world. We tend to be misfits, or nerds, who are not able to find a niche in everyday society. People don’t like us, we are lonely, and we are misguided.

Philosophy is the lowest form of psychological terrorism, designed to undermine everyday people and their lives, which they happen to enjoy.

It’s time we all fessed up, got real jobs, and made a useful contribution to society …

Are you being facetious?

I’m married, and I work as a hotel manager. Not only do I fit in with everyday society on an everyday basis, but it is actually my profession to be able to do so. In addition to that, I also make damn good money compared to most people who live in my area.

The OP only works if a man is an island. If a man is not an island, then the words and thoughts of others have bearing on their reality.

Honor and face are part of the glue that holds society together. When those precepts are violated, the civil society in which we all engage is violated – the very social construct is at stake! How could one not be offended under those situations?

A friend of mine once said, “Confucianism sounds a lot like the Mafia.” This is true in a lot of ways (the Triads, for example, are a working-class expression of syncretic Confucian ideology) but, I mean, ultimately all of society is a lot like the mafia. Getting much of anything done involves expressing one’s personal power within the context of a group. Offense is one of the methods whereby any given individual’s reach is established.

I don’t think I’m being facetious - there may be a lot of truth in what I say??

If you weren’t making blanket statements, then sure, there could be some truth in what you say. I have found, though, that when one speaks in absolutes whatever truth may be there can be very easily voided out. Think about it, when you speak in absolutes if your absolute is proven wrong in 1/1,000,000 cases, then the absolute is proven wrong. However, if you say that things are usually a certain way, then it is difficult to prove such a statement wrong because a person would have to show that, in at least 50% of cases, things are not that way.

So, statements such as:




Don’t really cut it, while a statement such as:

Are generally okay. Of course, because Philosophy is actually a niche, and since society describes the whole, which we are a part of, this statement is not actually correct. But, at least it’s not a generalization.

I am thinking that there are two types of philosophers for the main part. There are those that are text philosophers and then there are the life philosophers. The text ones get their ideas mainly from books , the life ones mainly get their ideas from observing life. The two types tend to butt heads.

People are offended because they’re sensitive to others’ thoughts, as they should be. That’s why when people have taken enough beating in their lives they become ‘numb’ because they try to shut this part of them down since it’s vulnerable, but our true state is one where we are affected by one another, and this should be embraced and not denied. The person who is hurt & ‘cold’ inside usually spreads it around and that’s not the way I want to be!

So no, there’s no weakness to it…just an aspect of being human with real feelings and insecurities; they don’t go away by ignoring them.

What is the relationship between the internal response of feeling offended in the presence of an undeirable stimuli, and the fact that we are sensitive to others thoughts (empathy?)…?

Because any given thing’s telos is externally defined.

Ok. . . . but everything is externally defined, at some point. Causality will always leave the internal eventually, if you dig deeply enough, just as a “purpose” will always have to be in reference to something else beyond that which holds the purpose itself. But I do not think this answers my question here at all.

My question to Echo was why should we see the fact that “I am sensitive to the thoughts of others” as an answer to the question “Why do you feel offended?”. Feeling offended is a personal experience of being emotionally hurt, an emotional sensation of revile/disgust in the presence of certain stimuli. The purpose of my OP here was to show that I believe this experience of being offended is a sign of a lack of personal conviction/strength and a lack of self-esteem. This experience of being offended has everything to do with one’s individual personal beliefs and sentiments, as they relate to the stimuli you are presented with. I see no connection at all in the process of being offended to the fact that we have the capacity for empathy or for imagining what the thoughts of others might be.

When you get offended the experience is between you and the stimuli of offense, whatever it might be. There is no need for the “thoughts of other people” to be involved at all.

The offense is triggered based upon what is internally within your psyche and paradigms and emotional content. Nowhere in this experience is there a necessary interaction with “the thoughts of others”. So Echo’s answer to the question “why do you feel offended?” is incorrect. As for “telos”, I see no reason why we need to drag that into this discussion here. I am not speaking of purposes or goals here. I am talking about the sentimental experience which occurs within someone when they are in the presence of certain undesirable stimuli, this experience which we deem to be “feeling offended”. There is no need to analyse this experience in terms of purposes or goals at all. The experience exists for a reason, yes, but the point of my OP is that the reason for this experience of being offended is that a person lacks sufficient strength of character/conviction in his beliefs, or lacks self-esteem or self-worth, such that would mitigate the offense-reaction in the presence of such undesirable stimuli.

To a person with a strong self-esteem and defined convictions, he sees undesirable or repulsive/disgusting stimuli and reacts with “I do not desire to be around this, because…” but he does not FEEL HURT or PERSONALLY ATTACKED in any way. It is a cognitive experience and not an emotional one. Conversely, a person with weak convictions and low self-esteem, and thus low emotional stability/maturity, will become hurt and feel personally attacked merely by being in the presence of some stimuli which is counter to their belief systems.


It’s good faith to keep a balance and just remember that you’re both in the world and outside of it. Even though, try as you may, to escape a lot of determinism, you can’t, and recognizing that other things outside of yourself can affect you beyond your control is a reason why it’s ok to get offended. =D (I won’t laugh)

Yes I agree that some people give up the sense of freedom in their lives, and let themselves be determined by others around them. That is a sign of personal weakness and low self-esteem, naturally; that is pretty much my point, really.

The simple fact that it is impossible to NEVER be affected by others does not mean that you cannot avoid feelings of “being offended”. Being offended would be a subset of situations where you are affected by others. So naturally it would be possible to never be offended while not disproving the fact that at times we are all affected by others.

I have to disagree that it’s possible to never be offended, the way it is mostly impossible to never be touched by the sun or drink water. From the time you were a kid if you were a bit on the chubby side or w/e and someone told you you were fat you might cry or something like that. Then as time goes on you might stay the same weight and when people make rude comments you don’t act as bothered by it, but this doesn’t mean you’re any less bothered by it than you were as a kid, it just means you find reasons not to act offended and outwardly show it. Of course it will hurt if someone tells you you’re ugly, you can’t go by anything other than what you see in the mirror and what you’re told, but being in good faith about both is the way to go, and maybe as time goes on you think “other people’s opinions don’t really matter”, and it’s more comfortable for you to say that to yourself, but it’s very hard to get rid of that gut feeling…the one that tells you others’ opinions really do matter to you.

I see you are speaking for yourself here, which is fine. However, it is different for me. No one can say anything to me that makes me feel offended. I am not saying that as a boast, it is just a fact. My personal strength of will and self esteem are so strong that I just feel amused when people think poorly of me. Either that, or I know it is a reflection on them and not on me. And even if it is true what they are saying of me (say I am fat, as in your example) and someone says “hey fattie”, i would just be like “yea?” I just dont care, one way or another. You are free to disbelieve me if you like. Doesnt really matter. I suppose it is inevitable for those who feel offended or hurt by the words of others to assume that everyone is like they are, as a defence mechanism to justify their own weakness.