People are confused about the meaning of the phrase “I’m offended.” Many believe that it is merely an admission of emotional inferiority. To be sure, the phrase “I’m offended” does say something about a person’s lack of emotional strength. But when someone plays the “I’m offended” card it says more about his lack of humility than his lack of emotional stability.

I have heard the phrase “I’m offended” countless times in my twenty years as a college professor. Each incident is unique but reflects a common way of thinking. Consider the common thread in each of the following incidents:

In 1993, I was teaching course in criminology. During the middle of a lecture on Social Disorganization theory, I made an observation about immigration patterns in large cities. Specifically, I said that a rapid influx of immigrants speaking different languages would not translate into solid social cohesion. The lack of cohesion, I explained, would impair community efforts to monitor juvenile delinquency.

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