Are opinions really necessary for change?
We seem to be in a politically sensitive time as a nation and world. Conversations about school safety, gun control, women’s rights and sexual harassment, to name a few, are on the lips of almost everyone in America. Global unrest surrounding political regimes, such as in Ethiopia, refugee crises, such as in Syria and environmental uncertainty, such as in Rwanda, all add to a collective cacophony of brokenness. There are so many things to address in this world, so many systems to take issue with and so many opinions to be factored into all decision-making.
But are these opinions good? Are they always necessary? Is dialogue about hard topics aided or harmed by the differing of opinion?
These may seem like simple questions at first. “Yes, of course opinions are good and necessary,” you may say. But what about when you do not agree? Think of a time when you were frustrated by someone else’s opinion because it seemed ignorant. Was the other person’s seemingly ignorant opinion helpful then?
I think we all carry a certain level of ignorance because as humans we can never know everything. But we also all carry a certain level of responsibility, whether recognized or not, because we have been created in Imago Dei and that must be acknowledged in order to be good citizens of this world.
As part of the popular English proverb goes, “to err is human.” How far ought we to err before the errors are inexcusable? How much responsibility do we carry with our opinions, emotions and actions?
Are we letting our world be shaped by opinions or letting our opinions be shaped by our world?
I am fully aware that this piece itself is written on the basis of opinion, rather than news or hard facts. My opinion on opinions is that they are always needed. We cannot grow as a world and learn from one another if we always agree. Perpetual agreement would be akin to a hive mind or group think mentality.
The focus, however, should not be on opinion absolutely. It would be incredibly ignorant of us to say that opinions would not be important because we cannot deal with hard and fast facts alone. This is tricky because it often seems that the definition of ignorance is relative depending on where you stand on the subject at hand.
Life is not mathematical. There is not a formula for every situation. There is not one set way to deal with things, especially in a world that is dealing with so much brokenness. The question of “how do we approach this brokenness” does not have a formula. There is no formula for fixing sexual harassment, gun control, the refugee crisis and all of the political things that are happening globally and on home soil.
What then are we to do with the opinions that push so strongly back against our own that we become paralyzed with anger?
The above mentioned proverb actually goes on to say, “to err is human; to forgive,, divine.” Yes, the opinions and words of others can be massively destructive to society. But we too are ignorant about some things. I think we need to learn to forgive ignorance to a certain degree because we certainly cannot pretend to have all the answers ourselves.
We have to learn to respect opinions even when we disagree with them, as a means for learning and moving forward, not as a means for becoming stubborn and doing nothing because we all disagree with one another.
There is an unattributed quote that I keep seeing all over the internet which reads, “I will respect your opinion as long as your opinion doesn’t disrespect anyone else’s existence.”
I think a lot of the hard conversations that are coming out of the things happening specifically in our country are because of opinions that tend to be disrespectful of others. We have neglected love and care for one another. But through the sharing of our opinions, I believe we can find a road forward.
And we must, because the road forward does not have room for ignorance.