When an offense takes place, there are always two people involved: the offensive and the offender. The offender could either be purposefully offensive (which would be considered disrespect) or accidentally offensive (which would be considered ignorance); the receiver of any given remark can either take offense at it or not. With two different parties that might react in two different ways, that leaves four different permutations of offense.
If you are on the giving end of the remark, although you may try not to be offensive there is still a 50/50 chance of being offensive through no fault other than ignorance at what might offend the person to whom you are speaking. As the speaker, you can never guarantee that a remark (or action) you make will not be interpreted by someone as offensive. You can do your best to be respectful, but that’s about all you can do.If you are on the receiving end of the remark, it’s much easier to control. The choice is yours whether or not to be offended, and either choice is easy.
I was taught a lesson recently by my mother-in-law. She, along with my father-in-law, has been seeing a lot of my improv shows. For my newer readers I married into the Mennonites, a very conservative religion, and my improv team is very blue shows, as in we can’t seem to keep our minds out of the gutter. We climaxed last Halloween when we did a sketch about trick-or-treaters dressed up as aborted fetuses. In context it got a lot of laughs. As George Carlin says anything can be funny given the right context, but as we know anything can also be offensive in any context. It’s the type of comedy that leaves you feeling slightly dirty even in the best of context, so I couldn’t help to ask my mother-in-law if she was offended. Her response was, “No…it takes too much energy to be offended at things like that.”
Being offended is literally a choice. You can choose to take offense or leave it.
There are certainly things in this world that are worth being offended by, but by and large I think I’ll follow my mother-in-law’s advice and let the insignificant stuff be.