January 14, 2013

The Tyranny of Sensitivity

If this hurts your feelings then you should reread it.

One of the most extraordinary examples of adaptation to immaturity in contemporary American society is how the word abusive has replaced the words nasty and objectionable. The latter two words suggest that a person has done something distasteful, always a matter of judgment. But the use of the word abusive suggests, instead, that the person who heard or read the objectionable, nasty, or even offensive remark was somehow victimized by dint of the word entering their mind. This confusion of being hurt” with being damaged makes it seem as though the feelings of the listener or reader were not their own responsibility, or as though they had been helplessly violated by another person’s opinion. If our bodies responded that way to insults,” we would not make it very far past birth.

The use of abusive rather than objectionable has enabled those who do not want to take responsibility for their own efforts to tyrannize others, especially leaders, with their sensitivity.”

—Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, 70-71


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