I’ll let you in on a little secret about me: I am opinionated.
Actually, it’s no big secret at all. I think likely most any person with a blog fits that category. It’s our opinions we fill the blogosphere with, after all. Without opinions, what would there be to write about?
In fact, I think just about everyone in our age is opinionated. Forget blogs, take a look at Facebook or Twitter or the the DJ on the radio or the person sitting next to you on the bus. Everyone has an opinion. And we’ve never had so much access to the opinions of others as we do today.
The internet brings such diversity into our immediate experience every day. My Facebook friends are comprised of a pretty eclectic group. I’m doubtful I’d be able to entertain in one place the people who I intersect with on a daily basis on Facebook. Among my friends there are:
- gun-toting Conservatives
- Canadians, raised in an environment of strict gun control
- pro-choice men and women
- pro-life men and women
- a self-confessed “cougar”
- a self-professed witch
- believers in New Age philosophy
- at least three staunch atheists
- one Creation scientist
- many Bible-believing Christians
- several self-professed hedonists
With all the status updates and recommended links from all those friends, it’s inevitable I’ll see at least one thing–often many things–that I don’t agree with. Often there are many that I vehemently disagree with.
It’s also no secret that modern society serves up a lot for us to be outraged about. Let’s face it. Everywhere we look there’s tragedy, the inaction of government, the wrong action of government, sex trafficking, the pro-choice/pro-life debate, the gay/lesbian marriage debate, the list could go on and on and on.
And being the opinionated person I am, it’s tempting to want to contribute my two cents to the conversation–even give someone a piece of my mind. More than once, JavaMan has recommended I simply “step away from the computer screen.”
“Be tolerant” has been thrown around as a mantra for our society to the point that it would seem we’re all supposed to retreat to a place where we hold no strong opinions. And yet in the face of such societal “wisdom,” it seems that loud, passionate voices are growing, not shrinking, in number. And more and more we are polarizing ourselves at extremes on just about every conceivable issue.
Even when we try to seek out homogeneity, it can’t really be done. I identify with fellow writers and also with homeschoolers, yet even among my “own,” there’s considerable diversity: Is modest apparel (ankle-length skirts for girls) a necessity, or are jeans okay? Do you have as many children as possible? Or are some methods of birth control acceptable? Do you teach Classical, Charlotte Mason, Delight-Directed, copy public school at home or unschool? Do tests or let children learn through experience? And don’t get me started about writers! ;)
So what can we do with the inevitable outrage that results when viewpoints collide?
- Step back. JavaMan’s advice is good advice. There are times when we need to speak up. But those times are probably few and far between. Rarely does an argument win friends or even win over the opposition. So what’s your real goal in expressing your opinion? It is true we are called to have an answer for our faith. However, I think it’s significant the word choice used here. If it’s an answer, chances are, we’ve been engaged by a question. We don’t need to go looking for opportunities to argue.
- Talk to God about it. Nine times out of ten, our words won’t help the situation. And maybe, just maybe, we’ve got the wrong perspective on things in the first place. By bringing it to the Father, we can pray for the individuals involved, but we can also just hang out with Him and ask for His eyes on the issue. He might have an entirely different take than we suspect. It’s helpful to remember that in the heavenly perspective, none of what caused your outrage is a big surprise to God. He hasn’t been dislodged from His throne because of it. He knows all about it, and he knows why it’s happening–it’s a direct result of sin (either yours or the other person’s or a little of both). It’s also helpful to recognize that those sins have been dealt with, and all that’s left in God’s heart is love for the sinner.
- Align our perspective. Getting God’s mind on a matter will also involve spending time in his Word and allowing his thoughts to become our thoughts.
- Think happy thoughts. Not to be trite, but sometimes, we simply have to purposefully place our thoughts elsewhere. The apostle Paul issued some timeless advice in Philippians 4:8. Here it is in the Message translation: Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
- Speak the truth in love. On rare occasions, we should speak up. But there are a lot of people out there who’ve forgotten the second half of that phrase from Ephesians 4:15: speaking the truth in love. We all want our chance to speak the truth. The love part is harder to incorporate. But as 1 Corinthians 13:1 says (also in the Message translation): If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. Not a glorious image.
- Work on your logic. I’ve lately been learning how vital it is to measure my words and to examine my logic. In an argument or debate, it’s so easy to fall victim to poor logic–either by being distracted by the other person’s red herring, or by following some tangent of one’s own. A good course in logic would serve every Christian well.
- Expect disagreement. If you choose to issue an opinion, don’t expect everyone to agree with you. Given the diversity of ideas out there, if you unleash your passion on the world, don’t be surprised when someone equally passionate on the other side of the spectrum fires back. And if you can’t stand the heat…(you see where this mixed metaphor is going).
Our energies are better spent in a positive way on the things we can change. Like arming the next generation to know and love the truth–and to speak it in love.
How about you? Are you opinionated? What do you have to say? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Or change?