My Opinion of Opinions

My mom said the other day that the older she gets the less she feels the need to immediately offer a strong opinion on any given topic. I thought in reply, “Don’t go getting all wishy-washy on me now, Ma!” I just said aloud, “Mmmm….” It wasn’t until a few days later, after I’d ruminated on her words that I began to see the wisdom in them. For instance, I grew up in a household where the righteousness of the death penalty was a given and the astuteness of most Texas juries was considered astounding. However, in recent years, I’ve come to take a very different stance on that issue. I no longer believe that the death penalty is beneficial to anyone. But that’s another blog. My point is that sometimes the strong opinions of our youth turn out to be misguided if not erroneous and the older I get the more I realize how little I know. Of course, at thirty, I have a long way to go before I know nothing, but I suddenly realize how little I know about what I thought I knew yesterday.

In the book that I am currently reading with my husband called The Importance of Being Foolish the author, Brennan Manning, points out that he who is insecure “finds it exceedingly difficult to listen to the opinion of others. He is so uncertain about his own identity that he has to assert himself all the time, gripped as he is by the fear that in listening to others or surrendering an opinion he may lose a part of his own shaky identity.” As I read that to my husband I could see a clear application in my own life – there are some areas of my life where I feel secure in my belief system. I have tested and approved those areas. I feel no need to jump up and down on my soapbox and propound the virtues of them, though I’ll happily tell you all about them if you have asked. On the other hand, in the areas where I am most insecure, I will yell and scream and get red in the face in my attempts to prove to you (and to me) that I am right.

Of course there are topics that need no explaining of my security in their righteousness. If you suggest to me that murder is a viable and necessary action in certain instances, I will write you off as a kook and suggest to the authorities that they keep an eye on you. I don’t believe that Brennan Manning is suggesting that we give up all opinion and turn an open mind into a blank mind. Instead, I believe he was saying that living a life searching always for the security that comes from offering a “right” opinion is a wasted life. If, instead, we searched for ways to reach out to others, to listen to them, understand how they think, get to the issues of their heart, then would we be much better equipped for a life of servanthood and joy. As Henri Nouwen wrote in his book Here and Now:
As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their "right" place.