…but it’s really You
From There to Here
Warning! Gratuitously and unusually UN-funny blog ahead! Read at your own laughter’s peril!
Reconciliation is a long road. It starts with an offense and ends with an apology, or, at the very least, a lame half-ass offer to buy someone a beer. For this reason, I love being offended, because it means I will usually end up with an apology and a beer.
But that’s just the rub: we love being offended these days. In this society, it’s become the de facto response of so many to experience that kneejerk response: to ride that offense train all the way to Kingdom Come and back. It affords us the opportunity to play the victim, appealing for public sympathy with outraged Facebook complaint posts laden with ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation marks.
For me, I don’t need sympathy. Just give me the alcohol. Sorry…was that last part not clear? Alcohol = forgiveness, always. Fill me up with alcohol, and we will be BFF’s until Jesus returns. I trust He’ll fill me in on which financial possessions I signed over to you in my drunken stupor.
On a personal note, I was recently offended. What?!? No, Josh, say it isn’t so! Indeed, ‘tis the sad truth. I was going about my merry way of encouragement and posting things meant to inspire, and someone took offense at what I posted. THREE people, in fact! It was a crowded room of the bleeding wounded. And when I found out that they were offended – wait for it – I was offended.
It was a Glorious Offense-a-ganza, full of epic Grinch-like proportions, ladling out blobs of bitterness and irritation. They hurled gravy-like frustration over me, and I spouted frothy venom-like frustration back, well-concealed in clever silver-tongued etiquette and passive-aggressive polish. Sure, behind our forked tongues we meant well, but we really wanted to bite, because we were all offended. Am I exaggerating a bit? Sure. But the truth is that we all chose to be offended, meaning no offense to them.
It truly is always a choice. Events themselves are inherently neutral: we are the ones who choose what meaning to assign to them, and whether or not to be offended. But lately, we choose to be so much more often than not. How did we get from there to here? How did we all become so easily offended? Were our spines removed in our sleep? Why do we as a civilization actively engage Presume and React mode instead of, as my wife encourages, “assume they’re for you”? Why is someone’s entire tenure of good behavior, integrity and solid principles immediately thrown out and discredited through what we choose to be offended by? One of the offended parties told me “I really believed better of you. MUCH.”
Were her words surprising? Not really. Because, in the end, you can’t please everyone, nor should you try. Ed Sheeran once said, “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
It’s not me…it’s you. Actually, it’s not you…it’s me. But really…it’s all of us.
At one point or another, we’re all going to assume the worst, and then we’ll:
- get bent out of shape
- be rubbed the wrong way
- become hot under the collar
- have our teeth set on edge
- get worn down, incensed
- get stuck in a paddy
- see red
- foam at the mouth
- turn blue in the face
- get hacked off, and
- have something stuck in our craw at some point.
The point herein is, let’s take stock of why we’re choosing to be offended.
I’m sure if Santa followed suit, he’d make us all sign contracts loaded with enough indemnity clauses to make Johnny Cochran choke. He’d cover his velvet red fanny with clauses and protections to ensure that we couldn’t sue him for wrongful delivery, damage to property, breaking and entering, stalking, insider trading, trespassing, invasion of privacy, and any other offended claim we could make under this red and green tinsel sun. Because that’s the way of it – we’re ready to sue at a moment’s notice.
Just look at some of the lawsuits that ascended the court chain from 2010 to 2020, riding the coattails of precedent all the way up to nine sitting justices who decided their fate. Some might argue that some of these were needed for societal change; others sue because they’re opportunistic or emotional. As XInsurance says, “Litigation can spring from your own mistakes, or the opportunism of a sue-happy society.” There is sad psychology behind this.
Look. 2020 sucked, and offended nearly everyone on the planet. Unless of course we’re talking about Mr. and Mrs. Mouth-Click-Whistle-Snap-Click-Click-Whistle-Glottal-Stop-Click and their children Glottal-Click-Whistle, Whistle-Click-Glottal and Click-Glottal-Click, who live on that remote island in the bush and are interested in killing you with spears. Most everyone has been offended in one way or another by the coronavirus. Or murder hornets. Or Sean Connery dying. For us voice talent, it’s that persistent neighbor always running his leaf-blower.
- Hit send and then regret it
- Put that letter in the mail and then anxiously bite our nails wondering when the mailman will come so that we can run out and wave our arms wildly and shout “Stop! Stop!” and hope we were in time to retract that letter
- Fire off the angry talk, and once we see the expression of how it lands, backpedal with the ol’ “Wait- wait- I didn’t mean that.”
- Post the angry note to our roommate for unwanted behavior, only to run and crumple it up as you hear them coming home up the stairs.
When did we forget to stop, take a deep breath, and just do it the Daniel Tiger way?
Give ‘em hell for me
"Nelson Mandela, 'As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison" by symphony of love is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Marc Broussard has an excellent song that just makes me smile. It goes as follows:
Give em hell for me
Dry your stupid eyes, you big baby
Just give em hell for me
Don't you ever take it too seriously
We are so easily offended, we humans. It’s like the ol’ SNL skit, “You Mock Me” with John Malkovich. Go ahead, watch that now. You’ll see what I mean. Only now we do it with lawsuits instead of harsh rebukes.
Merry Christmas. D’oh! Sorry about that. Happy Hanukkah. Oh, my bad! Happy Holidays. Too innocuous you say? My sincerest apologies!!! Merry Christmahannakwanzikah. After all, that’s what we’ve become: praying we won’t offend, walking on eggshells that we might; becoming so vanilla and innocuous to the point of neutrality and diluted inclusivity at all costs, until the potency of our original message is rinsed out.
As voiceover artists, fortunately, we usually get to present a message that is not our own words: we’re just the messenger, so don’t shoot us. But in terms of community, we need to remember it’s OK to feel a certain way that might be politically incorrect. We need to have our own ideas and perceptions heard, no matter how narrow-minded they might be. After all, Jesus didn’t come to bring peace; He came “to bring a sword” (his own words). We can choose to be offended at a script. We can become jealous of another voice talent’s success. We can misinterpret the message and kill the messenger. We’re all messengers, us voice talent. Let’s not kill each other.
It's a foregone conclusion that someone out there is going to be offended that this blog was not all sunshine and rainbows, gits and shiggles, as I usually strive for. But for this new year, resolve to not be so easily offended. Strengthen your spine. Go out and be strong, no matter what happens around you. Know yourself. Give ‘em hell for me. Dry your stupid eyes, you big baby. Stand your ground. Hold the fort. Dig in that foxhole. Realize your inherent strength and fortitude. On the coattails of this “Season of Giving”, give others the benefit of the doubt.
Did I intentionally set out to write a depressing and overlong blog on the destructive power of bitterness? Yes, because it feeds my soul when I get to be a Debbie Downer. The truth is that in this world - and after this year in particular - it’s sorely needed. I’ve been battling COVID-19 all year with comedy and lightheartedness: that’s my calling. But I felt the need to end a serious year on a serious note and treat it soberly.
Buddha said “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Ease-of-offense will kill us. What I propose, going into this new year of a hopefully receding pandemic wave: let’s choose to believe in each other. Drop the lawsuit-ready posture, eh? Let’s assume that the other person is actually for us. Let’s practice the golden rule and choose trust for once. As voice talent, we voice these kinds of scripts all the time from companies putting their best foot forward and declaring their super-ethical behavior through self-promotion: "We're the brand you can trust."
20/20 was supposed to be the year of “vision”. I pray we have clear vision for 2021.
In the end, I apologized to those who took offense at what I posted, removing it and instead posting a watered-down version. But mostly I apologized because none of them drink beer. I know. I offered.
For those of you celebrating Christmas this week as we do, MERRY CHRISTMAS. I hope this holiday you're reminded of Gifts that are Real, and that you're utterly blessed.
Whoops. Definitely got someone's goat with that one.
NOTE: This blog is purely for commentary / educational / entertainment purposes. I make no money from these blogs; though I do not refuse large cash gifts if it means I can pretend I'm a church.
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