Instead of amassing a footlocker of opinions, we would all be served better by just pinpointing and cherishing the few truths we have harvested in our walk of life.
I believe most of us live our lives more by opinions than by truths. An opinion is something you think because someone you trusted told you it was important. Or it can be an emotional reaction to any issue of life. It is an elementary fact that we have many more opinions than truths.
Sadly, our opinions are among our most cherished possessions. Jesus didn’t say, “Opinions will set you free.” He said, “The truth will set you free.”
I have been amazed at the number of people I know who cannot peacefully be in my presence for any hour or two without repeatedly trying to cram their opinions down my throat. Once they know I do not agree with some worshipped opinion, they bring it up over and over hoping to convert me to their viewpoint.
I am also amazed at how many people read my columns to weigh how much they agree or disagree with me. They will say, “I enjoy most of your columns and agree with you most of the time.” I would feel much better if they said, “Your columns make me think and give me different ways of looking at things.”
What greater gift can someone gift us than to make us think? Our brains are so choked by the spaghetti of opinions that there is no real room for free thought.
I remember reading the words of a Zen master who said something like this: “Don’t seek the truth until you drop your opinions. An opinion is something you haven’t proven to yourself and endless, loud repetition of it does not make it true. Just drop it and you may create a vacuum where a truth can enter.”
One reason there is so much conflict and lack of peace in the world is the emotional, reactive way we cling to our opinions. It is impossible for a highly opinionated person to be peaceful, centered, calm and reasonable. The stronger our opinions, the more certain we are to clash with other indoctrinated people.
I heard Harry Palmer speak one time and he talked a lot about “belief management.” I had loved his writings but at the time, I wondered if beliefs are something we manage. It seemed to me that people’s beliefs manage them! That was precisely what Palmer meant, I think. We need to look at our beliefs and opinions (and isn’t it hard to tell the difference?) and check to see which ones are leading us to a successful, peaceful, joyous way of life. Are we supposed to hold onto opinions and beliefs that make us unsuccessful, unpeaceful, and unjoyous?
I remember when this kind of thinking first started coming to me. I decided to question every opinion and belief I spouted off for just one week. I would simply ask myself, “Where did this opinion come from? Has my experience proven it to be true or is it still unconfirmed? Would any harm be done if I just dropped it? If dropping it upsets me too much, can I just hold it in a mental folder marked ‘still thinking about.’?”
During that week I saw that just questioning my opinions and beliefs agitated me immensely. It embarrassed me that I could be so emotional about things I could not prove or confirm with my own experience. The more emotionally charged an opinion was, the more likely I was to be unsure of it.
Am I trying to destroy your belief structure? No, I am hoping we will all spend our time locating truths that work in our lives rather than opinions we like to blow in people’s faces. I am trying to do more thinking and less opinionizing. I desire to be more peaceful and centered and less combative.
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