There’s been a lot of pushback against two of the youngest generations — Millennials and Gen Z. The media often paints us in a negative light. You’ve heard at least one of these, or you’ve heard them all: We’re selfish, we can’t live in the “real world,” we don’t know how to socialize in person, and all sorts of other negative stereotypes. But one of the worst — and honestly, the most confusing — criticisms I’ve heard directed at us is that we’re “too sensitive.” We’re the politically-correct generation that can’t handle jokes anymore. We can’t deal with “off-color” comments that used to be commonplace in society. And we overreact to little things past generations didn’t find offensive. The list goes on.
I have a problem with this idea that my generation and the younger generations are “too sensitive.” My problem is that… I simply don’t see the problem. What’s wrong with being sensitive? What’s wrong with caring about other people’s feelings? What’s wrong with compassion for people, whether you know them personally or not?
Sure, exaggerations exist and have since the beginning of time. And sure, everyone has a different sense of humor. What may seem hilarious to one person may be too dark or morbid for someone else. So I’m not expecting everyone to have the same sensibilities. People are diverse, and thinking that everyone has the same values I do is self-centered and untrue.
But since this is true — since everyone’s sensibilities are different — how can anyone claim that someone else is too sensitive?
Just because someone doesn’t meet someone else’s measurement of how sensitive a person should be doesn’t make them overly sensitive. How is it fair to judge how sensitive someone is or can be when everyone’s level of sensitivity differs? Isn’t that just as bad, if not worse, than assuming everyone’s threshold is the same as yours?
I also notice that many people who claim my generation is too sensitive are from an era that was also sensitive. For example, weren’t older generations so offended by gay people that they created laws that made it illegal for them to marry one another? Weren’t older generations so offended by Black people that they created segregation laws? Weren’t older generations so offended by women that they demonized the feminist movement? And weren’t older generations just as bigoted as newer generations, but they were fewer people speaking out against this kind of bigotry because the world, as a whole, has become more progressive?
Finally, if you are so offended by people disagreeing with you that you call them “too sensitive,” doesn’t that make you “too sensitive” yourself? Why else would you care that someone is offended by your words? It’s a contradictory situation that shows how relative the term “too sensitive” actually is.
Telling people that they’re “too sensitive” is often an easy way to avoid being criticized for your behavior. It’s a way to deflect from the fact that you possibly did something offensive. It’s a way to avoid taking responsibility for your actions. And it’s a way to refuse to learn from your mistakes and grow as a person. What’s more, calling someone too sensitive for disagreeing and arguing with you is a way to absolve yourself of blame, even if you were in the wrong and seriously hurt someone else.
I’m tired of being told that I’m too sensitive and that people in my generation are too sensitive simply because we care. There’s nothing wrong with caring. And the fact that people are criticized for caring seems to fuel the argument that more people should care, too.
Photo by Anton Spreemann on Unsplash
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