These days all sorts of people are taking all sorts of offence at all sorts of things; tune into any news service and you’ll find someone getting very upset because someone’s accidentally or deliberately insulted their history/flag/tradition/belief/god.

It’s as if insult has become a form of attack, an assault that one individual inflicts upon another.

But it really isn’t.

See, unlike physical abuse, an insult isn’t an attack until it’s accepted by the receiver; you have to actually take offence in order to be offended. It’s a choice made by the ‘victim’ not the perpetrator.

Ever insulted someone without meaning to? You didn’t choose to offend them, they chose to be offended. If they had chosen otherwise there would be no offence, regardless of whatever anyone said or did.

Suppose you deliberately try to offend me by taking out a full-page ad saying I’m ugly. That’s either true or false. So if I really am ugly I have no cause to be offended… and if I’m not ugly then there’s no point getting upset, is there?

When we take offence we make it difficult for the people around us to express any thought or notion that might possibly upset us, and often that means we don’t hear the things we really need to hear.

And when everyone takes offence we get the kind of timid, politically-correct culture that stifles new ideas, critical thinking and debate.

And I don’t care what anyone thinks; that’s stupid.
No offence.

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Written by Jason Clarke

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Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.