mental health · public life · social media

Nobody Ever Gave Me the Right to Never Be Offended

Every day I see things that offend me.

When I wake up in the morning and head in to work, I see the advertisements. They usually contain sexualised stereotypes, and they’re usually promoting crap that nobody needs.

When I go on Facebook.

When I listen to pop music.

When I look at a news front page or website.

When people cut me off in traffic, or are rude on public transport.

Even the people I care about can sometimes irk me the wrong way. And I know I have my moments.

Sometimes I get really angry. I see children and young people being manipulated by the media. I see extremism, hate and violence in the news. I see prejudice and stereotypes everywhere. 

Sometimes it depresses me. There is growing political discontent all over the world, with Trump, Brexit, and extremes on the right and on the left becoming more popular.

Sometimes, if I’m honest, I want a safe space. I want to run away from the noise and conflict. 

There’s a lot about living in Australia today that I don’t like. But then I need to remind myself of something.

There is a cost that comes with living in a free country. That cost is the right to never be offended, the right to never encounter an opposing worldview, to never be challenged on your ideas or opinions.

Human life in community is messy, and the cost of living in a democratic, free country is that I will always be surrounded by people I don’t agree with. That’s diversity. Whether it’s religion, politics, gender theory, ethics, art, there will always be worldviews very different to mine. There will always be things I don’t like. There is now, and there probably will be tomorrow.

It is not my resonsibility to change anyone else’s opinion – only to be responsible for my own words and actions.

Life in a country with free speech is going to be messy. But I don’t want that messiness to go away. I don’t want to live in a sanitised Australia where different opinions aren’t allowed. That’s not freedom – that’s tyranny. And if we don’t accept the right to be offended, the right to be wrong, then we will drift into dark territory, where the media have the power to control who has the right to speak, and who doesn’t. It’s already happening now.

And so I accept, I will keep getting offended. Some days, when it’s too much, I’ll switch off the noise of social media and take some time to breathe, to pray, to focus on the important things. Actually, I do this every day – every morning. Then, I take a deep breath, and head back out into the big bad world, the public square, where there are no trigger warnings, no safe spaces, and no comfortable, clean, cookie cutter people exactly like me.

No-one ever gave me the right not to be offended. Nobody ever pledged me an oath, and no government ever made a promise that everyone I ever encountered would see the world exactly as I see it.

Human beings are messy creatures, and if we ever want to make a difference in the world, we will need to push past our respectabilities, let our beliefs stand on their own two feet, and get our hands dirty with the business of life.

Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle, to encourage and inspire those who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info, and here for more posts.

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