Opinions are like… and everyone has one. We’ve all heard the saying, but I find myself baffled that while we wouldn’t dare to share our nether regions, why do we feel the need to share our opinions of others when we have them? Don’t get me wrong, I, myself, am a recovering opinion addict. I used to feel the need to share my thoughts from whatever rooftop I happened to be sitting on.
I’m becoming more aware that we never know who is sitting next to us when we share our thoughts about someone and the way they choose to live their lives. Thankfully we are only responsible for living our own.
LISTEN LIKE A CHILD
I learn so much about life from observing children, therefore seeing things through the eyes of innocence. Kids don’t have opinions. They have questions, an endless plethora of questions borne from a sense of curiosity and wonder.
Imagine if adults approached others and the world with that same sense of wide-eyed wonder and curiosity? What if we learned to lean in and really listen to each other’s stories? Asked more questions, gave less answers? What if, while we listen, it never occurs to us to think that they should be doing this or that? Rehearsing our own list of should and should not? Well, if it was me, I would do it this way… isn’t that what we often say?
Deep in the whisper of my heart I have a sneaking suspicion that our opinions are a covert form of judgment. They may also be used as a starting point for gossip, that so often springs from the opinions that we hold towards ourselves that we inadvertently project onto others.
I have sat in groups as the conversation twists into a downward spiral and suddenly other people become the topic of conversation. “I don’t understand why this person does… fill in the blank.” “Oh, I just couldn’t live that way, I don’t know why they do that?” “What is wrong with people?”
My face begins to flush. My heart starts to flutter as I grow more and more quiet and uncomfortable with each passing comment. Maybe its because I have lived a life with many mistakes along the way that I have such a sensitivity to this type of conversation. While I no longer feel a sense of shame or regret for the life I once lived I am very aware of others. I find myself scanning the room of friends or acquaintances wondering if what’s being said somehow happens to be a secret struggle of someone in the room and now they feel as though they cannot share or be open. In those moments I can discern the tangible sensation of shame that’s unknowingly invited into the room.
BE SENSITIVE TO WHO MAY BE SITTING NEXT TO YOU…
The older I get the more I find I have less answers and more questions. Leaving me to ponder if our opinions about others are cloaked in self-righteousness. A way for us to feel other than or better than. We can be passionate about all sorts of issues. It doesn’t take long on social media to understand just what people are passionate about. Passion is a beautiful thing when it causes us to act on behalf of others, but when our passions cause the damage of another maybe we need to reconsider.
HOW DO WE MOVE FROM OPINIONS TO CURIOSITY INSTEAD
First, we develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about ourselves, others, and the world around us. We can use our words to speak about what we are for rather than what we are against. We come to understand our shared humanity. There is so much beauty in our individual stories.
Also, we can lay down our expectations of perfection and allow others to feel as though they can do the same. We learn to engage with others from a place of compassion rather than pity. Pity carries with it the idea of better than, while compassion offers a shared sense of togetherness.
We create wide open spaces for others to feel safe with us. People need to know we are not secretly forming opinions about the way they choose to live. Or what they choose to believe, or the mistakes they make. Or the choices they make depending on whatever season they find themselves in.
We don’t necessarily have to agree with everyone and we weren’t meant to. When we curiously dig below the surface we often find ourselves pleasantly surprised by our similarities rather than our differences. We also don’t need to lose our own voice out of the fear of hurting another. But there is an awareness to our words and attitudes that we can most certainly filter through.
Above all, we resist the temptation to talk about the imperfections of others. The more accepting we are of our own imperfections the more we learn to accept others for who they are rather than who we think they should be.
SOME EXAMPLES OF UNECCESSARY OPINIONS
Family: no two families are the same, therefore we don’t need to have an opinion about the differences in our parenting styles, or another person’s family dynamic unless of course there is abuse of some sort, which would certainly cause us to act on behalf of someone else.
Spiritual or political affiliation: We don’t need to have an opinion about who, why, or how a person chooses to worship, or if they choose not to worship altogether. We also don’t need a difference in opinions to cause separation and division based on the way a person chooses to vote or not vote. Our opinions are not truth, even if some believe that their opinions are formed by truth (i.e. the Bible). An incredible amount of peace occurs when we lay down our opinions of the way we believe others should be doing things.
Therefore, always remember that you never know who is sitting next to you. The pain they carry or the shame they still hold close or the regrets that may still haunt them. Love and kindness are the bonds that tie us in our shared humanity.
WE ARE ALL DOING THE BEST WE CAN
I don’t know your spiritual convictions, but I have honestly stood in the presence of the most brilliant light of Love and Goodness! It unraveled me to my core in the most indescribable and unimaginable way. My heart became acutely aware of the way I felt about myself and others! I now see everyone with the eyes of a child. As though they were still children, before whatever happened that stole their innocence. There is a wild wonder beyond what we see with our eyes or perceive with our minds.
As a result of that experience, now when somebody asks for my opinion, I more often respond with a probing and curious question.
Finally, I believe with the right questions, we can unearth the buried treasures of love and wisdom that lay hidden within each of us!