Politically Correct or Properly Compassionate?

“Everyone just has to be so politically correct.”

“People are offended way too easily these days.”

“I don’t understand why people are always so butthurt.”

Being a person who is constantly on the internet (for better or for worse), I see comments like this all the time. For a while I would think that, yeah, it really does seem like everyone is always offended. The thing they’re offended about wasn’t that bad. After a while though, something clicked. I realized where I was going wrong. Whenever these topics came up, I realized the one thing in common with them all:

I don’t belong to the same group as the victims.

I’ve never been on the receiving end of racism. I’ve never dealt with any sort of disadvantage due to my gender. I’ve never been raped. I’ve never truly felt like I didn’t belong in my own body. I’ve never been told I’m an abomination because of who I’m attracted to. I’ve never had society at large tell me that I don’t belong because of things I cannot control.

This realization was pivotal for me. Noticing this allowed me to take new perspectives. My straight white dude worldview was not and will never be comprehensive enough to understand the nuances of every situation. I’m not that smart (no, seriously, I’m not). I am smart enough, however, to know that if I want to understand people better, if I want to love them better, I need to listen. I can’t tell them how to feel, I need to listen when they tell me. Louis C.K. said it well:

“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”

How in the world can we say “it’s just a joke” when we have no idea what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the pain we so flippantly dismiss? How can we tell people “it’s not a big deal man” when it’s never been our deal to begin with?

I do still think there is a “too far,” don’t get me wrong. Just like basically everything, there’s a fine line that can be crossed. However, I don’t think we’re in some hyper-sensitive age where everyone is getting offended by everything. I think our society is just slowly getting better at listening. I think we’re realizing we can’t tell people how to feel about jokes that target them.

If you’re someone who resonates with the “everyone’s always getting so offended” mentality, I’ve got a challenge for you. Step out of your own shoes, and into the shoes of others. Take a look at the group being hurt. Talk to and make friends with people who are different than you. Ask questions. Try really hard to understand. Listen. Take the time to do these things. You’ll come to realize that experience is invaluable.

We don’t live in a hyper-sensitive society. We live in a society that’s learning to listen.