If you never offend anyone, what’s the point?
I’ve been writing this blog now for about four and a half years. In that time, I’ve heard from a handful of people who’ve been offended by the words I’ve arranged in this space from time to time, and I’ve probably offended several others who haven’t expressed their feelings back to me.
And while I’ve never written a post specifically with the purpose of offending anyone (except Yankee fans), it’s my honest belief that if I don’t periodically offend someone, I’m really not doing my job.
Because not all offense is gratuitous. Some of it is the byproduct of one person honestly writing opinions on something, and another having a visceral emotional response to those opinions. And both ends of that equation are okay.
Why is it okay to offend people sometimes?
Because I don’t set out to do it. As you read, I don’t know your circumstance. I don’t know your experience and I don’t know specifically what offends you.
But I’m not seeking to deliberately ignore or deny the value in your experience or the pain in what’s previously hurt you. I don’t take your offense lightly. I’m not thinking well <insert group x here> is a bunch of morons, so I’m going to take a swipe at them. I’m writing honestly, with the goal of provoking thought.
As I said when I previously wrote about it, I haven’t read the book Tampa by Alissa Nutting. It may be gratuitous; I don’t know. But I know the dichotomy between women seducing boys and men seducing girls is troubling, and at its root, it’s sexist. And while every boy fantasizes about being seduced by…well, any female non-relative, who’s to say girls are any different in that regard? And why do we assume girls will be psychologically damaged by the interaction, while boys will grow up as eternal winners of the sexual lottery?
You can’t really examine that question without potentially offending someone.
Put another way, Jesus hung out with whores and Paul (Saul) by virtue of wanting to wipe out an entire group of people based solely on their religious beliefs, was the first-century equivalent of Hitler. I’ve offended people with both statements, but both are true. And both are intended to make us think.
If Jesus hung out with whores, and if the whores were worthy of his mercy, then (1) they are worthy of our mercy as well and (2) we are worthy of that same mercy, as well. Same thing with God using someone who wanted to slaughter an entire religion. If you dig the whole Christianity thing, this bodes well for people whose typical sin is being short with the horribly slow checker at the express lane.
In other words, there are things in this world that are offensive. And if we, as writers, write to never offend anyone, then we’re pulling our punches and not really delving into the difficult issues.
I hope it’s clear that this is not a defense of offending people solely for shock value or just to get a rise out of them. That practice adds nothing. But looking at a difficult reality can’t be done without wrestling with difficult issues.
It’s my hope you consider that both as a writer and a reader.