I was in my seat on an American Airlines flight that was still boarding. Across the aisle someone had to get out of their seat to let another passenger get in to that row. They had boarded in the correct order, but for the fellow who was interrupted, mistakes had been made.
He said, “I don’t know who designs these boarding plans, but they need to make some changes. There’s a better way to do it.”
Whether on not he was right, he had an opinion about it that he was willing to share, and I have an opinion about that. In fact, I have an opinion about opinions. Maybe you do too.
My little dictionary has opinion as a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
That was exactly what the fellow across the aisle was offering. He didn’t say, “I wonder how they design these boarding plans.” He said, in essence, “I have been unnecessarily inconvenienced. Someone could have planned things better so that wouldn’t have happened.”
There is the possibility of truth in many opinions, but there is almost always this implication: put my opinion into practice, and things will be better for me.
Opinions are everywhere!
One of my friends from back in the day had little use for opinions. Someone would offer him theirs and he would invariably reply, “Opinions are like an anus, everybody has one.” Rarely did they offer any other opinions, and he was thankful.
He was wrong, of course, because most people have a multitude of opinions.
I have an unfavorable opinion about the worship music at a lot of protestant churches these days. My good friend Pat has an opinion about electric vehicles (EVs). It is also not generally favorable. (He didn’t tell me his opinion directly, but he threatened to disown me if I bought one.)
While those two opinions have been formed with some knowledge and understanding of facts, most are not.
In a “man in the street” interview, a Gen Z-er asked his peers if they were OK with people who were transgender. As expected, they pretty much all were. Then he asked if they were OK with people who were transracial (a white person identifying as black, or vice versa), and they pretty much all said “no.”
Most of them were at least a little uncomfortable when they saw the conflict in their own opinions. Some tried to justify them, some said they’d have to think about it more.
Thinking is something we should do much more of when it comes to our own opinions. And that isn’t just an opinion, it is an insight from observing my own life and the lives of others.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to the truth.” There doesn’t need to be a dialogue, just the realization that someone else has a different opinion. Why? What are their reasons? Do facts support my opinion or is my opinion only based on emotions?
It might be an interesting exercise to record on your phone the opinions you come across in a day. Mark those you agree with using a horizontal line and those you disagree with using a vertical line. You’ll get a picture that might surprise you.
Learn to listen
I asked my wife if she had an opinion about opinions. She thought for a moment, then laughed and said, “Most people don’t want to hear other people’s opinions.” That isn’t an opinion, that’s a fact.
But it does make me wonder how I should respond the next time she asks me which pair of shoes looks better with her slacks.
Even if most people don’t want to hear what other people think, all of us should learn to listen to different opinions. My recommendation for that is to not look for them on social media or television. Both of those are loaded with emotional persuasion.
Either find someone who is willing to discuss (ala Jefferson’s quote above) or read those opinions in newspapers.
I do the latter a little bit every day, and sometimes I still have to fight off a visceral reaction. This is hard work. It is much easier to only listen to opinions that agree with your own. But it is lazy and dishonest.
What do you think about:
Abortion? I’m guessing you have an opinion about abortion. Maybe you’ve had to struggle, either directly or indirectly, with this issue. I have not, but there are few experiences as emotional as birth and death. Putting the two together can certainly be overwhelming.
The “facts and knowledge” often missing in the debate have to do with the question of life. My OB/GYN friend — who has delivered 11,000 babies (“They’re slippery, and I never dropped a single one!” he’ll tell you with a smile) — says life begins at conception.
Not only has he delivered thousands of healthy babies, he has delivered the bad news of miscarriages and still births.
Even if you don’t agree with Doc’s belief, many are promoting the idea of abortion up to (and at) delivery. Those who approve that are saying a mother’s choice is always more important than a child’s life.
One day, I can imagine, a grown child might have that same choice about his or her aged or ill mother. Then will the mother be for life or choice?
When opinions trump facts, knowledge, and good, life can get very complicated.
Opinions? Notice how I skipped over Border control, Climate change, Drug use, etc., and went right to Opinions?
After that last section everyone (including me) needed to breathe a little. Besides, my editor is checking my word count.
Opinions are fine things to have, especially when they become a starting point for more thinking. When an opinion becomes a place to “take a stand,” it is likely to crumble. Opinions make lousy foundations for life.
Do good, even in the having and sharing of your opinions. Make the world a better place. It’s in you.
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This leads me to ask, pursue…insight. Where do, facts and opinion lead me? How I recognize context and continue to pursue what is truly relevant.