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Have We Gone Too Far in Trying to Avoid Offending Others?

Have We Gone Too Far in Trying to Avoid Offending Others?

Recently I attempted to place a social media advertisement that included a picture of someone’s hand holding a tape measure.  I intended it to point interested people to a blog post I wrote.  The post was filled with encouragement for how to stick with New Year’s goals.  Much to my surprise, my ad was rejected for generating a negative self-perception in order to promote a healthier lifestyle.  My title was positive and clearly said I was providing a strategy for success.  Nevertheless, ads that show pictures of scales and tape measures are now deemed inappropriate with the potential of offending others.

My Initial Reaction to Accusations

My immediate reaction to being accused of offending others was to feel hurt and treated unfairly.  I wondered if the advertisement judge had even looked at my post.  I couldn’t believe that this was such a hot issue that they were going to pass on receiving my money to stick to this rule.  After I calmed down a bit, I contemplated why such a rule would exist in the first place.  Why does our country need to be on the constant lookout for evidence of potentially offending behavior?

The reality of our world is that there are a lot of nasty people in it.  We have bullies of all ages and have young people committing suicide due to the cruelty of others.  We have people withdrawing from the world due to health issues and personal appearance.

As a nurse and a member of the healthcare community, I would never willingly engage in behavior that would hurt someone.  In fact, the Nightingale Pledge includes a statement about being devoted to the welfare of those under our care.  So, my decision to show a tape measure was not meant to harm or offend anyone.  Yet, here I was being both accused of something and rejected.

Have We Gone Too Far?

Just as much as I don’t want to intentionally hurt someone, I also know that there are times when we must endure pain in order to find healing.  Nurses give injections (which hurt) in order to provide medications that treat medical problems.  Patients may need to endure the temporary pain of a needle prick in order to cure a disease or experience relief of a symptom.

Sometimes children start hanging with the wrong crowd and end up in a heap of trouble with drugs and the law.  We can certainly tell them we love them and offer our help.  But we can’t let them rob us blind, cause daily chaos in our lives, and continue a destructive lifestyle.  That’s not helping them at all, that’s just feeding the problem.

In our efforts to protect everyone from the slightest bit of feeling offending, we have now created all kinds of rules.  Exclusive minority groups can exist and are encouraged.  But if you are part of the majority group, you better not even think about creating an exclusive group or you’ll be accused of inappropriate behavior.  College professors are expected to always give the student the benefit of the doubt.  But if the professor deviates one inch from syllabus and college rules, he or she may find what the inside of a courtroom looks like.

Health Concerns of Avoiding Offending Others

There are real dangers with not saying what needs to be said.  And honestly, I wish that I had more people that were courageous in my life that spoke up and pushed me in the right direction.   Instead, I was often left wandering aimlessly, not knowing I had something that needed fixing.  In a sense, it was like having a splash of ketchup on my face that no one told me about.  I looked ridiculous and spent the day embarrassing myself instead of wiping off the darn ketchup.

Here are a few of the dangers I am speaking about that can happen because of wrongful silence.  I’m sure you could add a few of your own.  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section after this post.

Dangers of Staying Silent

  1.  About to marry the wrong person & live a life filled with misery.
  2.  About to do something extremely dangerous & suffer trauma or death.
  3.  Overdose or under dose on medication and suffer bad consequences.
  4.  Eat poorly everyday & end up with heart disease, obesity or more.
  5.  Rarely or never Exercise and suffer from weakness and immobility problems.
  6.  Not getting enough sleep & become moody, exhausted, and difficult to live with.
  7.  Exhibit signs of depression or anxiety and miss many joys of life.
  8. Never learned when to keep your mouth shut & self-sabotage on a regular basis.
  9. Never take a chance & live a life locked inside a box of fear.
  10. Bury all your problems & never experience the true freedom you were meant to have.

My Recommendations Going Forward

I don’t believe in whining about something without coming up with a plan of how you’re going to deal with it going forward.  Most situations come down to one of three options.  You can do nothing, do more, or do less.  Each situation is unique, so you’ll have to decide which of three options is best when the time comes.  In general, when it comes to nationwide trends banning things that offend, here are my two cents.

  1. Do Nothing.

    There are going to be times when doing what we normally do means we risk offending someone.  But that doesn’t mean we need to change anything.  I’ve told students that they were at risk for failing a college course I was teaching.  They didn’t like hearing that.  They may have felt offended.  However, the most compassionate thing I could ever do for a failing student is to give them fair warning when there is still time to fix it.  In these cases, and many others like them, we need to continue doing the right thing, even if someone feels offended by our actions.

  2. Do More.

    We probably all know someone who is super sensitive and often feels hurt.  If we know this about someone, the right was to handle this is to go out of your way just a little to lessen his or her pain.  An example would be giving someone heads up that something is coming.  Even 15 minutes warning can give someone like this time to prepare.

  3. Do Less.

    Although I hate to admit this, my zealous personality has offended others during the course of my life.  I know I have caused people to feel they don’t measure up or are lazy.  Whether those things are true or not is irrelevant.  I don’t have the right to judge someone and put him ore her down, unless I am responsible for him or her.  But even if I do have a legitimate reason for providing someone feedback, it should always be constructive not destructive.


In summary, let’s consider my tape measure advertisement that was banned.  I have three options of how to respond.  I could choose to fight the battle and confront the company who made that decision.  My second option is to I do nothing, forget about it, and just move on.  Or I can see if there is any lesson for me to learn through the situation and adjust my actions accordingly

In my opinion, this is not a big enough issue to warrant going to the top of the food chain and causing a disturbance.  So, if I’m not willing to fight for what I consider fair treatment, there is no point in contacting them at all.  However, the situation did rattle me enough that I wrote a blog post about it.  So, choosing to do nothing seems a little inadequate.  I choose option #3.

In the future, I will change my advertising to be less offensive so that I can reach people in a way that society now requires.  However, don’t for a second think I’m giving in to the madness.  I will never be quiet if someone is about to jump off a bridge, to take the wrong medications or to ignore a serious issue.  Why?  Because I’m a Registered Nurse, I care about people, and I will inflict temporary pain (even if you are offended) when needed for your own good.

I'm a nurse, I care about people, and I will inflict temporary pain when needed for your own good. Click To Tweet

Reflection Questions:

  1.  Do you tend to be the offended or the one offending others in most situations?
  2. Can you think of a recent example where you had to decide how to respond to an accusation?
  3. Do you think we’re doing the right thing as a society in avoiding offense or have we gone too far?

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