We are all ‘experts’ in what I’ll share below.
As a child, I knew I wasn’t allowed to speak much around adults. I had to be seen and not heard and I had to ‘keep still’. At some point, perhaps in Junior High, there was a change in treatment (at least in the academic zone). We were encouraged to share our opinions. We were even taught what an opinion is. And we were told we need to and must have an opinion. This was to help kids transition from the zipped mouth phase to the speak up and build your confidence phase.
But something happened along the way, almost like an overdose of this remedy resulting in the rise of opinions. The truth is, this was happening all along by groups who had platforms. Opinions have lead to violence, inequality, anxiety, country invasions, broken relationships and other ills. Today, pretty much everyone has a platform.
Why do Opinions Create Conflict?
Opinions have taken over and this is mostly witnessed on social media. Have you been in a DoubleF? – a FacebookFight? Have you seen one? This is where someone either shares an opinion or throws an article out there like a bone for the dogs to fight over. An opinion is shared on a social, political, religious etc. matter and others chime in; some in agreement and some in conflict. Egos get bruised, people get offended, hostility brews, it gets personal, maybe some slurs, maybe a block or delete and sometimes it leads to the end of a friendship. What happens online is an intense magnified representation of our normal offline existence.
I’ve been part of FacebookFights too where I was not gonna let him/her ‘get away with that’ But get away with what? What did they have or what did they steal? Who cares about my opinion anyway?? It changes; its intensity decreases or increases, it shifts with cultural exposure, evolution/time, age, race, class and life experiences. For e.g, picture a woman with a very low haircut and a sleeveless shirt and pants at Church in 1980 vs 2017. Or the fact that my parents expect me to find a boyfriend on my own, love him if I want and marry him if I want but my Brahmin friend from Tamil Nadu dare not smile or look at her arranged Husband-to-be across the dinner table.
You get the point; there is an energy behind opinions. And at some point I questioned the energy I had behind my opinions. Was it necessary? Were they based on too many variables?
Interestingly, it does not appear that the same energy and rabid determination to prove a point is done in person. I told a friend jokingly that I wish all those who were in the middle of a FacebookFight would magically appear in the same small room. I suspect that their tempers would simmer and they’ll blush, be a little ashamed, become bashful and calm say “well, alright, um…” and then start to reason and have genuine discourse. But that’s just wishful thinking on my part.
So why are opinions sooo important to us? It gives us a sense of identity which could be general or specific such as “a feminist” or a “Marxist”, we feel important, in control, in charge, not like a doormat or an idiot. Our opinions give us “a voice”. And when anyone says anything in discord, we are armed and ready to defend our opinions, aka, our ‘identity’.
Perhaps it is evident that where there is a need to say something that is not necessary, that in itself will create problems. Either way, we recognize that our opinions break down relationships yet we have a compelling need to express them. So let’s address that with an alternative.
Rather than spend hours fighting online, researching evidence to throw as stone, inviting our friends to “come see this shit” for them to join in and taking screenshots, consider this:
You’re both “right” and you’re both “wrong”. Just different perspectives that should make you go “hmmm” rather than “arrrgghhh!” Don’t worry about who’s not backing down. It reminds me of a joke by Eckhart Tolle where one person doesn’t want to be the first to become enlightened and therefore nudges to the other with “No you go first” with the response “No, you go first”. In other words, it’s ok to put your sword down, decide not to respond, stop typing, stop speaking and even stop thinking about the opinion being discussed. There’s no need to feel like a failure, a looser or a punk because you put down your weapon down/shut your mouth first. You don’t need to get the last word in … One path to inner peace is simply saying “ok.”
Recognise bias and a very unchangeable bias? Simply say “ok”, Recognise that perhaps this individual may not have all of the information for better understanding and healthy discourse? Simply say “ok”. Recognise that there is the possibility that you are being biased or too attached and emotional about your opinion? Simply say “ok”
Being the first person to let it go doesn’t take anything away from you. You are not less important, less intelligent or less of an advocate when you let a potential argument rest.
I’m sure you have once read that a key to having peace is to mind your own business. As you see above, another key to having peace is to know that your opinion is just that – an opinion – and that there is nothing to prove to another.
The Bigger Picture
Our individual relationships are simply part of the larger human experience. When we create peace between two individuals, we are peacemakers – we live the lives of the careers we dreamed of which was to create peace and save the world. Perhaps you’re more so thinking of world peace. World peace will be attained when there is inner peace as peace cannot be thrust upon an individual, it can only be realized. When we have tried and failed to save the world by sharing/shoving our opinions, we may eventually realize that we were the ones who needed saving.
A Final Consideration
Your opinion isn’t truth. How freeing is that?
It may not even be that you question the content of your opinion, it may be that you ask “who cares?” and is it necessary? Do you realize that the Internet is a cesspool of opinions and never ending back and forths? Can you gleefully divert biting the bait and spiraling down a rabbit hole? Can you bypass 5 hours of FacebookFighting followed by post traumatic stress where you’re then trying to figure out why you’re in a shitty mood with a high heart rate?
Posts and comments online are often just opinions, when we scroll we are sometimes like vultures and hawks just ready to launch with our opinions and perceptions as springboard. It is also just an opinion, no need to bring a truckload of negative energy to prove “your” opinion or bring others to your side through persuasion (aka CAPS, exclamation marks!! And coercive threats).
Let it be the healthy pouring into each other of our differences without the downhill fight of which difference is right. Kind of like when your grandma would pour tea in and out of two cups to cool the tea, who cared about the two cups? That tea just tasted good and cool.
But look folks, all of this is also just my opinion. But if what you have read has brought some peace and even melted some of your defenses, perhaps this message was more than just thought.
Peace & Love,