Everyone is capable of having an opinion.
Being entitled to an opinion, however, has frequently been carried to a dangerous and unhealthy extreme.
What’s the difference? Let’s say that it is my opinion that the moon is made of green cheese. We know of course that it’s not. We have physical evidence returned from the moon to disprove me. When you show me a moon rock, and explain to me that the composition of the moon is not cheesy, I should be capable of accepting that my opinion has been disproven.
Our modern society, however, believes in being entitled to your opinion, and as such denies fact. How else do you explain flat earthers? Science deniers? Anti-vaxxers? Facts to the contrary are being blatantly disregarded in favor of “popular” opinion.
Yes, some opinions are mostly harmless. If you are five foot two and want to believe that you are tall, or you are old and want to believe you are young, it doesn’t cause harm. The trouble comes when you try to force an opinion on others and inflict damage.
Look at American politics. This administration ignores science and economic fact for opinion on numerous topics, and seems to be striving to return us all to the dark ages. Despite a broad lack of support for eliminating the Affordable Care Act, the Senate very nearly succeeded at taking it down. Opinion is overwhelming fact.
How did we get here? When did we leave the age of reason behind and allow for faulty opinion to be the basis for policy and directing our society as a whole?
I have no answer. However, I have thoughts on how to begin to change the conversation.
You can only control your own opinion.
This can be really hard to accept. Why? Because if our particular opinion is based in fact – for instance, it’s my opinion that the Earth is round. Science agrees with me. I admit that I cannot fathom how anyone in the 21st century believes otherwise. For centuries now the vast majority have accepted the reality of a round planet. How can anyone possibly deny this and believe otherwise?
Because some people feel they are entitled to their opinion, they are unwilling to let it go even when disproven. They think they are right, and they will not hear or accept otherwise. They get stubborn, even belligerent when you try to show them they are factually mistaken. You can’t talk to them, and you won’t change them.
When we have fact on our side we tend to get into arguments with these people. Why? Probably because we cannot fathom how they can hold onto a ludicrous, non-factual notion. Of course, to add insult to injury, usually arguing with people “entitled” to their opinions only causes them to dig in their heels.
This is why it’s important to recognize the only opinion over which you have control is your own. I am the only one who can make up my opinions, and that is that. I can argue until I am blue in the face, but when someone has decided their opinion is a fact, even with irrefutable proof otherwise, I will fail to change their mind.
Of course, this can get particularly ugly sometimes. White supremacist marches, disempowering a protest with false patriotism, or name-calling and expressions of anger over a difference of opinion gets ugly. More so in the face of opinions contrary to facts.
Working around false opinions can be done.
It’s not easy, but it’s possible. How? By working with others who believe in fact. Marching for Science, for Women’s Rights, standing up peacefully against the KKK and white supremacists are all steps in that direction.
We tend to take a stand against the thing we do not want, including opinions. While resistance is not futile, and often vital, it’s imperative that we stand FOR something. The more of us who stand together in support of a thing rather than against a thing, the more we can affect the collective consciousness.
When we argue with those who hold opinions lacking in fact, we allow them to empower their opinion. We end up giving them a forum to spout their non-factual opinion, and strive to legitimize it.
Recently, an acquaintance wrote an attack against a community I am part of with an opinion counter to fact. Rather than argue with that person’s opinion, the majority of the community stood up for the fact of the matter. From there, friends and acquaintances of the community also stood up for the fact. Rather than an outpouring of anger and argument against the attacker, we’re seeing positive support for the attacked.
Sure, there is still anger and hurt over this opinion that was expressed. Yet I think the outpouring of support for the attacked rather than countering the attacker with fact goes much further in generating a better outcome.
How does opinion matter to your path?
We all form opinions. It’s human nature, because we believe in things. We have faith in things. The important thing is to recognize that while you are capable of having an opinion, you are not entitled to it, even when you are factually correct. When we let go of our entitlement to opinion, I think we open ourselves up more to spreading fact and changing opinions that are held which are counterfactual.
This is challenging, but I believe it’s totally worthwhile.
What’s your opinion on holding opinions?
This is the three-hundred-second entry in my series. These weekly posts are ideas for and my personal experiences with walking along the path of life. I share this journey as part of my desire to make a difference in this world along the way.
Thank you for joining me. Feel free to re-blog and share.
The first year of Pathwalking, including some expanded ideas, is available here.
If you enjoy Pathwalking, you may also want to read my Five Easy Steps to Change the World for the Better.