It's quite easy to offend someone these days. 

In the age of social media, we get bombarded with crude language, opinions we don't like, and stuff that's downright mean. That's probably why we see an increase in language policing and censorship. To some extent, this can be a good thing, for example, to protect minors. 

But when it's getting too far we can ask ourselves: aren't we getting too thin-skinned?

From a Stoic point of view, we're not offended by what we deem offensive, but by our choice to be offended.

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How NOT to Get Offended (Stoic Wisdom for a Thicker Skin) - YouTube

How NOT to Get Offended (Stoic Wisdom for a Thicker Skin) - YouTube

Einzelgänger

Seneca the Younger, one of the great Stoic philosophers, was concerned with the nature of insults and being offended. 

Seneca criticized his friend Serenus for wishing that people, in general, shouldn't offend each other. According to Seneca, this is completely unrealistic and not in our control. Instead, we should aim for not to being offended, which is in our control. 

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We cannot expect people to be nice to us all the time, because they aren't. Humans possess the full range of emotions, desires, and mindstates: from angry, to happy, from compassionate to sadistic. 

There are as many opinions as there are people, including opinions we don't like. Resiting this is a recipe for disappointment and will lead us to get offended all the time by what's simply a product of nature. 

This doesn't mean we should put up with people treating us badly. We can set boundaries, or limit our interactions with people that don't respect us. 

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If someone offends you, ask yourself if the thing that you feel offended by is truth or nonsense. 

If it's truth, why be offended by truth? 

If it's nonsense, why be offended by nonsense? If someone throws nonsense at us, isn't the person that does so is the one who should feel ashamed instead of us? 

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Lucius annaeus seneca

Someone has made a joke about the baldness of my head, the weakness of my eyes, the thinness of my legs, the shortness of my stature; what insult is there telling me that which everyone sees?

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When we are insulted our ego is attacked. This is a consequence of the story we tell ourselves, about ourselves and how the world should be. 

When something conflicts our story, it could lead to feeling offended. We should ask ourselves then: 

  • "Why are we getting offended?",
  • "What's the root of this?",
  • "Is it because of something that happened in the past?",
  • "Is it because of an ideology?",
  • "Is it because I've been culturally conditioned to be offended by this?"

Our own faculty should be our own responsiblity. 

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LUCIUS ANNAEUS SENECA

You are expressing a wish that the whole human race were inoffensive, which may hardly be; moreover, those who would gain by such wrongs not being done are those who would do them, not he who could not suffer from them even if they were done

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