Thursday, 26 March 2009

On being offended

Mr. Leg-Iron had a thoughtful post last week about how President Obama might have inadvertently caused some offence to disabled people. In an interview, he jokingly said that his bowling skills were "like the Special Olympics or something".

According to the Telegraph, “Privately, officials with sporting disabled organisations were stunned by the offensiveness of the remark from someone so prominent. " We expected better," said one.”

Mr. Leg-Iron commented
“Disabled people aren't that good at bowling, you know. Be offended if you wish, those who enjoy that sort of thing, but it doesn't alter the fact that if you're missing a limb or two, or if you have any sort of co-ordination difficulty, bowling isn't something you're going to excel at. So when a fully-fit individual says he bowls like someone from the Paralympics, he's not disparaging the Paralympics or those who take part. By stating that his complete and well-co-ordinated body functions no better than someone with bits missing, he's disparaging himself.”

"I take enormous offence at the fact that even though he did apologise even before the show was broadcast . . . the Professionally Offended refuse to accept his apology, even though no sensible person would have considered his comment offensive in the first place."
And here we have the contrast between two types of people, the Professionally Offended, and the sensible. I suspect that everyone is offended by something. I find some types of behaviour offensive. Mr Leg-Iron confesses that he was offended by President Obama’s apology. But this story is about people being offended because they are being disparaged, they are being slighted. It’s about disabled people being offended because someone suggests that they are not very good at bowling. Not that I know if any disabled people were actually offended by what the President said - but there are people who clearly felt they ought to be.

Now in my experience, I have met some people who seem to be more easily offended by personal slights than others. Some people seem determined to consider themselves slighted - determined to take offence.

And this, it seems to me, is a characteristic that modern society encourages, when it is actually something that should be discouraged. The Bible tells us that “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence.” (Proverbs 19:11) More than that, a determination to take offence generally indicates an unforgiving nature. And, as the apostle Paul writes, (Col 3:13) “Bear [ahem!] with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.

The Professionally Offended seem to be determined to encourage people to feel slighted and take offence. That is completely wrong. It is the Professionally Offended, rather than President Obama, who ought to be rebuked.


Greg said...

Obama annoys me to no end, but this offhand comment seemed to be blown way out of proportion to me. It is like something I would say in one of my funnier moments. I agree with your scriptural assessment, and a more secular one - "get over it folks"!

Jonny N said...

I agree, but it is amusing that Obie made this gaffe when he does sit as the pious head of a party which has professionally offended interested groups as some of its strongest supporters. This is why the response has been somewhat muted. Had he been a Republican...