CEO: Being Triggered or Finding Grace?

Nov 1, 2019, 10:01 AM by Chris Coker

Many of you don’t know this, but I teach one college class a semester, alternating between CU and Metro State. Through this experience, I have realized just how easily offended people have become.

I know, it is cliché to say how politically correct and liberal most universities are. This past week, one of my teaching assistants sent me an article about trigger warnings. A trigger warning is when a professor, in this case, warns students that something in the upcoming content may trigger an emotional response or negative past experiences.

Some universities think this is great, and some think it is horrible. 

Great because it accounts for everyone’s personal journey and life experience. It is a positive step in our cultural evolution.

However, it also shields students from the growth that comes from challenging their point of view or dealing with a difficult subject matter (I do want to point out that neither CU or MSU has ever said I should announce trigger warnings or mentioned it all).

In my opinion, trigger warnings are bad policy. Getting triggered is real, and we have to take people’s feelings into account, but when does triggering cross over into being too sensitive?

This article is several years old, but it speaks to the issue effectively.

“Schools may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health,” the writers assert. “Teaching students to avoid giving unintentional offense is a worthy goal, especially when the students come from many different cultural backgrounds. But students should also be taught how to live in a world full of potential offenses.”


A term used in the article that you may not have heard is “microaggression.” This is a question, action or statement that unintentionally triggers offense. One of those questions cited is, “Where are you from?” According to some, this question is considered a microaggression and should not be used.

In my class, we discussed this question, and a student responded that they found this to be ridiculous: “Here at CU almost everyone is from somewhere else, so that is one of my standard getting-to-know-you questions.” It’s a question that we would normally consider “small talk.”

Should you be offended by small talk?

The answer to all of this lies in your ability to give someone grace. What does that mean? It means that instead of getting triggered by something that is not malicious or intentionally offensive, you give someone grace. By grace, I mean that you forgive whatever accidentally implied insult or malfeasance they have committed because you consider the context. 

Were they being snarky or were they asking a harmless question? 

We all know that Southern habit of saying, “Bless his heart…” Which is always followed by something mean. In reality, probably nothing mean needed to be said. It could have all been dropped and grace given.

Giving grace is a skill that we need to teach our children and that we need to role model. I don’t think that anyone will disagree that our fellow citizens are too easily offended. This overly correct posture that we are currently taking will only further divide us by not allowing for alternative viewpoints. 

We have to understand these issues and be able to talk about them without losing our minds. Otherwise, the only safe place to give our opinions will be on social media, and how well is that working for all of us?


Dr. Chris Coker 
YMCA of Northern Colorado