This I Believe

Elena - smithtown, New York
Entered on May 17, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: integrity
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If I had the power to eliminate one phrase from the English language, it would undoubtedly be, “no offense.” My distaste for the saying derives from a distant mishap whose details are embedded in my memory. It was a day not unlike any other in Mrs. Beckam’s second grade classroom. After lunch my class was escorted back to the room where I began a brief conversation with a then acquaintance of mine. I don’t remember the topic or what was really said prior to her comment but I am sure that I never asked her an opinion of my appearance. I noticed her looking at me with this strange expression as though she was witnessing something utterly grotesque and disturbing. “No offense,” she said, “but your neck is really boney.” When bullied one has the right to defend oneself, but when hit by this passive blow, I found myself knocked unconscious. I was particularly hurt by her comment, since the reason for my “boney” neck lies in the several surgeries I’d undergone as an infant. As the tears welled up and I began to cry I wondered why a person might tell me she meant no harm when she knew her words would do just that. At the ripe age of 8 I hadn’t a clue, but I knew that I hated that phrase and would forever refuse to use it.

Ten years later, I have discovered that this seemingly innocent expression is not one used merely by 8-year-olds who do not know any better, but like an epidemic, it has invaded every age, race and gender. It has shown no signs of ceasing. What first began as a pet peeve has evolved into a pursuit of understanding why no cure is in sight. I began to wonder if indeed honesty was always the best policy.

The truth as opposed to lies is widely accepted and even encouraged; that is of course until it hurts. Oftentimes we want it, even expect it, until we don’t anymore. Until the truth yields more harm than good, or tells us something we’re not ready to hear. Not only do people not always want to hear the truth, but most are too scared to tell it.

I have defined the term “no offense” as a shield that is used for protection in order to tell an unwelcome truth. People armor themselves with it in order to say whatever uncensored thoughts may be running through their minds. It is a cop out, a mask; worst of all it makes lying seem noble. The sanctity of truth is often tarnished by those who don’t respect its limitations.

I therefore propose a cure, a means to abolish the use of “no offense.” If one believes in her truth, if she sees it as necessary or if its purpose is ultimately positive or warranted, it should be shouted from the rooftops. If no one can hear, then it should be lit up on a billboard for everyone to see; because not only does truth provides us with insight into other people, it most importantly gives us insight into ourselves. If one, however, second guesses her truth, contemplates its effects or heaven forbid feels the urge to use that dreaded expression, the remedy I propose comes in the form of silence.

I love truth as much as the next person and because of that I never want to resent it. I believe it to be the source of what little control we humans actually have on this earth, as the earth’s immensity makes us all relatively insignificant. I want to be able to appreciate its power and use it to the best of my ability. At times that will mean keeping my mouth shut or occasionally editing my words, but for all the innocent victims whose lives have been made just that much worse by these ever rampant “non-offenders,” it is a sacrifice I am happily willing to make.