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Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Didn't Mean To Offend You [trigger warnings: eating disorders]

I see this a lot on the 'net. I've heard it a few times in person. And I know the socially acceptable thing is to quickly forgive someone who offended you if they say they didn't mean it. For example, let's say someone callously remarks on my weight, and issue I've struggled with since my teen years...

THEM: "Hey, girl, you should go to the gym or something!"
ME: "It's cool, I work out at home."
THEM: "You work out? Really? Like real workouts?"
ME: "Hey now, that's rude!"
THEM: "Don't get offended, I just mean you're still fat. Maybe you should diet. You don't need to get all upset."

The truth is... this is a hot button issue for me and I don't like people mentioning my weight. At all. Ever. It's a taboo topic in my household.

The person who brought it up was expressing the simple fact that they haven't seen me lose weight (which is kind of weird because inevitably these comments come from people you don't know and who probably don't know you're losing weight unless you shrink in front of them), and they're probably dealing with their own body issues and want to share the success/regrets with a fellow human being. They're trying to bond.

The problem is that it is offensive to me. My feelings were hurt. I was upset. Instantly forgiving someone because they didn't mean to cause offense invalidates my feelings. In essence, the person says, "You can't be angry because I don't feel angry." Or, "You can't be upset because that is not the reaction I demand from you."

Do you see the problem here?

Let's flip this around a little and use one of those insidiously popular phrases that always hurt. My friend is a gorgeous woman with a fabulous gym-toned body and a great attitude. Her least favorite thing was having envious woman talk to her and learn she has four kids because the next words out of their mouth were always, "I hate you."

All people knew about her was that she was physically fit and magazine-cover-ready with four kids. That's not a good reason to hate someone.

But they'd always say, "Well I'm just joking! No need to be offended."

Can you imagine if every stranger created you with, "I hate you." Joking or not, that wears thin after about thirty seconds. And, of course, people were upset and confused that she didn't great their hate with laughter and open arms. I knew her well enough to know that this had been going on since childhood. She matured faster than her peers and had dealt with the girl-on-girl hate fostered by society since her early teens.

BUT! But, I hear you cry, you can't know what everyone's triggers are and you can't get through life without talking to people. Avoiding all human contact isn't socially acceptable so at some point you'll have to talk to someone and you might inadvertently offend them. The person should forgive because you didn't mean it... right?


Before someone can forgive you, you need to apologize.

Usually people don't apologize. They state that they didn't mean to offend anyone, but they take no responsibility for their actions.  It's very rare to hear someone say, "I didn't mean to offend you, I'm sorry I did. I won't do that again. Please forgive me."

If you didn't mean to offend someone but managed to, apologize. Own your mistake. Humans do stupid things sometimes. It's part of being human. So it's okay if you, a human, make a mistake. Apologize. Move on.

Because the alternative is that you did intend to offend someone, you wanted to make them hurt, but you were called out for bullying and don't like it so you're now trying to hide behind the pathetic excuse that invalidates the victim's feelings and tries to once again regain control of the situation. And that ain't cool. If you are hurting people because you enjoy inflicting emotional pain, seek professional help. There's nothing cool about being a bully.


  1. I love this. I'm having trouble with a bully right now I'm trying to remove from my life. I needed the power of these words. xo

    1. *big hugs*

      I'm glad I could help. Stay strong, and kick that bully to the curb,

  2. I disagree. Forgiveness is not an act done for the forgiven, it is for the forgiver, the choice to not carry a hurt with them. In most cases where we are truly wronged, we will never hear the offender ask for forgiveness. In many cases the person is dead, so forgiving them cannot be done for their sake. it's for ours. So whether or not someone asks for forgiveness, the offended person can choose to carry the hurt (which is their own business) or let it go.

    1. In most cases I agree with the policy of simply forgiving and moving on, but I've found this is one of those common microaggressions used by trolls and misogynists that need to be called out. When you say, "Whoa, out of line. That was rude." They backpedal.

      "What's wrong? I didn't say it so you'd get offended!" is the common excuse. When you press and ask for an actual apology the response is usually, "You shouldn't be offended."

      Intentional or not, if you hurt someone, you apologize. If you won't it means you didn't actually care enough not to hurt them and that they don't mean enough to you to try and cure the pain.

      Although, I'll agree with dead people it's best to forgive and forget. The dead can't ask for forgiveness or apologize. And there are times when you can't call someone out on their behavior and have to accept it and move on. But I'm going to favor calling people on bad behavior over giving them a Pass any day of the week.

  3. It is second nature to me that if I accidently say or do something that hurts somebody to say "Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you". Yet I know that few other people do this. For some people they are uncomfortable saying they are sorry. For most it's because they were never taught to do so or else dropped that teaching over time.

    As for forgiving people, it isn't meant to invalidate your feelings and shouldn't. No one truly forgives instantly anyway. You can forgive a person for making a mistake. You can even forgive a person for being rude and uncaring if they've never had a choice to be otherwise. But it is important to realize that you can forgive a person without forgiving the action.

    Jason makes a couple of good points - forgiveness if for the forgiver and most people don't ask for forgiveness. However he's wrong on his final point. Sometimes the hurt continues to be carried even when the victim wants to let it go because either the person continues to inflict the hurt or there's an issue connected to what hurt you.

    Weight is a sensitive subject for most people. Yet they will continue to bring it up whether to bond or seek advice to help themselves or for whatever reason. It is your right to let them know that their method of bringing up the subject is hurtful and also to indicate if it's a subject you're willing to discuss as long as personal comments like those are kept out of it.

    Personally, I never mention weight first. If someone I know has lost weight they are usually willing to mention it themselves. Then I can congratulate them. Otherwise I keep my thoughts to myself.

  4. Oh yes, almost forgot. Excuses like "just joking" after saying something hurtful don't fly with me. Last person who did that I looked at and asked how they thought that could be considered a joke. There was no answer because it wasn't meant as a joke and we both knew it.

    Sometimes I can be very sarcastic but I make certain the sarcasm is recognized. If it's in my personal writing then I add in *sarcastic voice here*. If I'm speaking then it is extremely obvious in my voice and body position. But one thing I try hard to keep from doing is hurting anyone. It's not always possible but when it does it means I need to apologize and I do. I don't understand people who say it's hard for them to apologize. Is their pride worth more than their friendships?

    If so I feel sorry for them. Pride can be good but it shouldn't be an overriding factor especially when dealing with people.

    1. That's another that drives me crazy! "Just joking! Don't get all huffy."

      Any time someone tells you what to feel, there's a problem (unless you're an actor and the director wants a certain emotion for a scene... see! I can find loopholes too!). Invalidating someone's emotions is a form of objectification. It says: you are not allowed to feel what I don't want you to feel because you aren't really human.

  5. As for your friend with the gym-toned body and four kids? I'm envious.

    I never got back into great shape after one kid and now I never will be able to have a toned body, with or without the aid of a gym. But being envious is not the same as hating someone for being much more dedicated than I ever was. Envious I can live with, hating is not something I accept in myself. Your friend has shown she is dedicated to taking care of herself. That's something to be proud of and to be given compliments for. And the rest of us can deal with our envy without making hurtful comments.

    1. She worked out multiple times a week for hours at a time, but had other health problems. Everyone has their own trials in life that are impossible for outsiders to see. But with her... I almost sad "I hate you!" as my first response to. I remember her cringing and at the last minute I changed it to, "I should work out with you!"

      It was only later that she told me how much she'd learned to expect for women to say they hated her over her body. And ever since I've been very careful about casually tossing that phrase around. What seems like an innocent phrase to one person can be very cruel to someone else, and a good person is mindful of that.

    2. Something that drives me nuts is how easily people say they "love" or "hate" things. I know what those emotions feel like and I reserve their use for things that deserve that amount of emotion. I love my family and friends. I love chocolate and strawberries. I really like lasagna, hamburgers, Pepsi, dill pickles, etc. I rarely hate anything or anybody but I do feel strong enough about certain attitudes to say I hate them. But it's a rare person I will feel that way about. Be mad at, envious of, or just rubbed the wrong way by, yes lots of people like that. But to hate someone? Not even a hand's count.

      Being a person with "invisible disabilities" as they're called, I am very aware of the fact that people can have troubles no one else is aware of and how much they can affect a person's daily life. All it takes from me is a moment to ask if there is anything i should be aware of to avoid hurting someone or making them uncomfortable.