I remember in school being really awesome at our tiny speech and debate class. Part of the reason I remember being awesome was because I genuinely didn’t have any issues with talking in front of people so I appeared to be quick-witted enough to be the best in the class. The other reason is because my school was so small that really as long as you felt like you could talk to people, you were going to do well in the class.
Of course, my school was a tiny private school that was basically a Bible school in a lot of aspects. One of the benefits of this was having a class that was entirely about worldview. This meant that not only did we look into the Christian worldview that the school itself held, giving us a pretty solid understanding of the basics of our background, but also looked into the worldview of other religions. Without this class, I likely never would have read the Koran or any Buddhist texts in my life. Neat stuff.
All that to say this: I may have done well in my debate class, but that doesn’t mean I’m any good at actually debating. That’s because my genuine curiosity into how other people’s brains work led me to other interests. Psychology, for example. And of course, my interest in worldview.
Because of this, I’m really good at explaining things, seeing the big picture, and trying to make sense out of the nonsense around us. Proving a point? Not so great. But what I am good at, I can (as you would expect), explain.
Here are the points I always like to consider when dealing with opinions and the way people view the world.
1. Know Why You Believe
The wording of this comes from a great little book that I read all those many years ago in high school. Author and minister Paul E. Little takes a look at different questions that many of us probably ask at some point if we’re serious about our spiritual lives, such as “Is Christianity Rational?” and “Are the Bible Documents Reliable?”
In the midst of this, however, is a statement that I think is hugely beneficial to us as we form opinions about nearly everything. Do we actually know why we believe this particular opinion that we buy into? In other words, how much time do we spend honestly evaluating our convictions, especially compared to how much time we spend running our mouths.
We should spend more time exploring why we actually think a certain way instead of just holding onto an opinion as soon as we hear it. Do we think something because somebody in a political party said it and we tend to agree with that party? Or do we think it because we’ve considered the actual ramifications of it and find that it lines up with our core beliefs and convictions? I’m prone to being a counter-cultural person. I think it’s just because I like being difficult. But if I’m being counter-cultural on everything just because it’s counter-cultural, then I’m blindly conforming to another set of beliefs and betraying my counter-cultural self. Just because I think one way about one popular opinion doesn’t mean I’m going to jump into every unpopular opinion that’s around, regardless of what my Facebook friends do.
For example: do you think Kanye West is a jerk? You probably do. The question is: do you think he’s a jerk because he acts out, or because he’s a musician that you don’t really care to listen to? If you do listen to his music, you realize that he’s basically bipolar, so his behavior isn’t really a surprise anymore. Still not an excuse for acting out, but you understand why he acts out a little bit more than if you just say, “Ah, there goes loud-mouth rap guy doing loud-mouth rap guy things.”
If I’m honest, I am more likely to defend Kanye West because I enjoy a lot of his music than I am to care about whatever lawsuits Florida Georgia Line find themselves in. I don’t care for their music, so I’ll probably disagree with whatever they do with their lives. That’s my personal bias, and it leads to the next point.
2. If You Believe Something Solely For Personal Reasons, Re-Evaluate.
This one seems a lot more innocent than it really is. I mean, yeah, I don’t care much for Florida Georgia Line. I don’t even take the time to learn whether there is a hyphen in their name. Don’t care too. That’s my personal preference, which each and every one of us is free to have.
Our problem is that we turn personal preference into our major deciding factor in everything. It’s the difference between saying, “Yeah, I don’t care much for Florida Georgia Line,” and saying, “If you listen to Florida Georgia Line, you’re an idiot.” And with that, I promise I’m done using that band as an object lesson.
Do you see the difference? The first statement is a profession of personal preference. The second is an opinion that results in degrading another human being. And yes, there’s middle ground there that I didn’t mention, but the line is very thin between holding a personal preference and using preference as a weapon.
After all, one can make the argument that it’s using that personal preference as a weapon that causes us to treat somebody else as less than ourselves, or worse yet, less than human. Because when we elevate our preferences to the place of authority in our thinking, we then demote other people who we don’t agree with to places of shame in our view.
There is a mural in New Orleans, buried in the 8th Ward, that has a quote from an artist named Rajko Radovanovic. The quote is as follows:
“A precondition to doing violence to any group of people is to make them less than human.”
Another way of thinking about it is that a precondition to doing violence to any group is to hold the opinion that you are more important than they are. Does holding an opinion lead to this mindset? Absolutely not. But holding an opinion too highly, to the point that your opinion becomes more important than the value of somebody else, is the issue.
The problem with our opinions is that all too often, we use them when we try to make ourselves feel more important, or more human, than somebody else. Because of this, it’s healthy to try and put personal preference aside when exploring our actual beliefs. It keeps our ego in check, so that when we understand why exactly it is that we believe something, we can explain it to somebody else instead of instantly talking down to them about it.
These two points don’t cover much of anything, really. The reasoning behind our opinions and arguments and beliefs are much too deep to cover in one blog post. However, it’s a start, I think, to bettering ourselves and bettering the way we interact with each other.
It’s true for many things: the more rooted you are and sure you are in yourself, the better you can interact with the world. You won’t convince somebody to accept the way you view the world if you don’t actually understand why you view the world that way.