No matter how this word is used, it ascribes blame.

I was offended = It was the other person’s fault.

I chose to be offended = It was my fault.

I did not mean to offend = It is your fault if you were.

I propose that we BANISH this word from our vocabulary. In the very least, that we stop externalizing what is really going on inside when we want to use this term.

Elder Bednar had this to say:

When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

While I agree with Elder Bednar that we always have a choice in how we might respond to others, I think we need to look at this word a little more. In Mormon culture, what does it mean to “be offended?”

In some cases, I think being “offended” involves a lot of underlying shame, embarrassment, hurt, anger, sadness, pain, and even fear. Saying “I was offended” is a nice way to blame the other person, to externalize these deeper and often painful feelings. Saying “you chose to be offended” is no different.

Let’s start owning our feelings.

NO ONE (I think) CHOOSES to be hurt, or to feel fear, sadness, or shame in these situations. Blaming the offended person for feeling something like this does not heal them. At the same time, blaming the “offender” doesn’t help either. Perhaps, in relationships, stuff happens between people, despite ostensibly good intentions. I believe Elder Bednar’s intention with this talk was to encourage people to take responsibility for their own “stuff.” That is terrific. Let’s just not use this to blame those who may be hurting.

What does it FEEL like for you when you are offended? What happens inside you? What do you do with this feeling?

What is it like for you to be told something you said or did offended someone else? How do you react? What is it like to find out you have offended someone?