I strongly dislike the word “offensive.” I also dislike the concept that it tends to represent in modern discourse.

I don’t like it because I think it focuses entirely on the wrong thing. There are many things, entire categories of things, that you shouldn’t say or write – not because they’re offensive, but because they’re cruel. You shouldn’t say these things, even if you wouldn’t offend anyone by saying them. Even if you’re in company that would like you to say them. You shouldn’t say cruel things without great justification, because you are an honorable person.

Other things need to be said. They may be unpleasant to hear for someone who is hiding from a painful truth, but that person may be someone you’re sworn to help – a loved one, a trusted friend, or someone else who needs you. There are things that you may need to say to them that are true, and just, and helpful – but which will offend them. Which may offend others who overhear. This shouldn’t stop you.

If you take care to never be cruel, to always be just, to never speak just to hear the sound of your own voice, and to always speak when your words can be helpful – then you will not need to care about offending.

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