NO MORE OPINIONS
By Chad West
I don’t want to give my opinions anymore. I should clarify. I most definitely will give you most, if not all, of my opinions. On life, and God, and even unnecessary things, like, let’s say, licorice: (horrible). But I don’t have any desire to climb to the tip-top of Sinai before doing so. You see, some people like licorice, even the wretched black kind, and I have zero capacity to understand how that could possibly be. There’s nothing going on there my taste buds find agreeable. Yet, some seem to thoroughly enjoy the taste equivalent of falling face first into a cow patty. Their opinion is ignorant, tasteless, and foolish to me. Yet, because I’m not betrothed to winning that argument, I’m able to see it’s only an opinion. I can see my own opinion that black licorice is like licking the boots of a coal miner who walks home each day through a river of toxic waste can also be seen as ignorant, tasteless, and foolish because people have different tastes.
But that opinion probably isn’t going to do a person much damage. However, when we start spouting off our opinions on God as if He were whispering them in our ears to share, that can be dangerous. Those opinions also become harder to see as opinions. Some Lutheran might find it interminable that another Christian questions infant baptism in the same way a Baptist might roll their eyes and shake their heads at the suggestion in the first place. One sees the other as a loon—and probably at least slightly heretical—for holding such a view. That makes it difficult to hear anything else of worth the other guy might say. So now we have two people with one—and I could list dozens—theologically divergent opinion about a non-essential issue keeping them from getting along. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have such an opinion, or that their opinion isn’t backed up by evidence they’ll be happy to share with you whether you want them to or not. I just personally don’t want to fall in the trap of dismissing you because we disagree on something.
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 1 Timothy 2:23-24
There are people who can have whole and fulfilling friendships with other people with which they violently disagree on important issues. Then there’s the rest of us. Our pride gets in the way of allowing somebody else to own an opinion that we can’t wrap our minds around. My inability to comprehend your choice (or to believe more than one opinion can be held on a side-issue) makes you into an enemy somehow. With all that said, I’m not saying I will never discuss our differences so I can avoid confrontation. That’s just exchanging one unhealthy habit for another. Like a crack addict becoming a booze hound instead. That’s my temptation, by the way (Not the boozehound thing… although I do love a good Bloody Mary). My temptation is to avoid all conflict for the sake of peace, even when the Greater Peace is at stake. But I promise that Greater Peace isn’t at stake as often as we’d like to think. Most of our opinions aren’t as vital as we see them.
G.K. Chesterton said, “people generally quarrel because they cannot argue.” We don’t know how to have a decent disagreement anymore: I disagree, then give a series of calm, rational reasons why I disagree. You respond by countering my argument with well-researched opinions while sipping iced tea, and so on and so forth until either one of us changes our minds (don’t hold your breath) or there’s nothing left to say. Then we go out for nachos or something. But, no, we end up taking it all personally and call people names, unfriend, unfollow, and delete their numbers from our phones. Then nobody gets nachos, and that’s sad.
Just because another person openly disagrees with us, we don’t have to take that as a personal attack. (Heck, even if someone actually personally attacks our opinions, we don’t have to take it as a personal attack.) But we can’t seem to help it. Even when I say I’ll view this one time as a minor disagreement that I’ll totally keep my cool about, my pride wears me down. Next thing you know I’m sub-tweeting that jerk, looking for articles to post in his ignorant face, and thinking about how I’d love to punch him in his smug little lips. Defending yourself can become addictive. Every general with a gun has vilified the other side’s general with a gun because he believed all his shots were righteous. I find great pleasure in becoming a self-righteous troll to get a rise out of those darn self-righteous trolls. We will always believe that being “right” somehow makes doing that wrong thing okay. That’s why I’m not going to give my opinions as fact anymore. (Well… we’ll see. But I’m going to try.)
I get it. Sometimes, I’m so wrapped up in my opinions on a topic I can’t see beyond them. My possible facts seems to sit so balanced in their spot, so right; so glaringly true, that any other opinion to the contrary seems shockingly dumb to me. But even if something is vitally true, that doesn’t mean, as a Christian, I should crush you under the weight of that truth. That means letting some things go. Could be that I swallow my words when I’d rather let them tumble out over your wrong, wrong, wrong, stupid, wrong argument. Whatever. I don’t want my opinions to be my gods anymore.