“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion”. That is what I have heard from my mom all of my life. Just recently I have come to understand that this statement has much deeper and broader truth to its roots than I ever imagined.
When I was younger, I always thought an opinion was just whether you liked something or not. As a child I frequently disagreed with my sister about liking some things. “I hate this song,” she would say. I of course would reply with an opposing “Well I like it”. Whether that was the truth or me just trying to be obnoxious was beside the point because our petty disagreements would be followed by “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” from my mother.
As I got older I began to see the broader aspects of an opinion. I used to wonder how there could be arguments over what the same piece of literature said, such as poetry and the Bible. That led to my confusion of how there could be so many denominations of Christianity, all claiming to believe the same Bible. The conundrum had me pinned for the longest time. That is until we changed churches.
It wasn’t until we moved churches that I began to see the bigger picture. We had moved from a more conservative church to a more liberal church. Both were Baptist, but the new church was so different that it gave me a new outlook on life. This change made me recognize how radically my ideals had changed. My worldview and way of thinking had all been changed and I was still reading the same Bible and upholding the same doctrine as before. It then occurred to me the idea of interpretation. It’s all about how you look at things. Now I better understood how people could get such different interpretations from one thing. Going there also made me realize how judgmental I had used to be. One day I just wondered where I would be without church at all and it occurred to me that I would be no morally different from those whom I had been judging. That changed my ways. Now I try not to judge, but to look through an objective point of view. I went into the world with this and began to analyze the opinions of others.
Nowadays I approach someone’s beliefs with caution instead of condemnation. I don’t just throw them aside and label them as stupid anymore simply because I don’t agree with them. I have no way of knowing that person’s life or what has shaped their beliefs. Until I experience what they have experienced, I won’t really understand. I bet if were in their situation I would most likely have the same beliefs. The closest thing we can do is take a walk in their shoes. Not having a quick glance at their shoes, and not taking a few steps with your eyes closed. But really trying to grasp their being as to better understand their beliefs and opinions. This way it is easier to identify with them and respect their stand on life.
This helps when analyzing political issues. It is easier to identify with both sides of the issues when you try to become a person that believes the opposite of yourself. I’ll tell anyone without hesitation that I am pro life and against same sex marriage. But I still try to understand both sides of the issues. I’ve never really been a part of a tough situation having to do with these issues. I have never been pregnant as a result of rape or a pregnant teenager. I will never understand that pain or know the hardship of making that decision. Therefore I couldn’t say I wouldn’t be pro choice. I am not homosexual and I think it is morally wrong. This belief is Bible-based. Outside the Bible, where is the denunciation of homosexuality? It is simply homosexual or heterosexual with no ties of right and wrong to either. But what does all of this matter?
The right to vote and be active in government is a beautiful gift to the opinionated individual. It gives the personal opinion its significance. But one rule about democracy is the greatest thing about it. Majority rules. If the majority of voters in California have no problem with same sex marriage, then they vote that way. This is democracy at its best, whether the minority of Californians and people outside of California agree or not. Democracy was designed to accommodate the majority. But if the majority has no opinion or idea of what they want where are we?
Here we find a huge problem: apathy. Some people just don’t have an individual opinion and come back with apathy. Whether it’s laziness or straight up selfishness, some people just don’t care. Still some (like I used to) just take on whatever is popular or what they have been told. It is crazy to just accept these kinds of things ignorantly. The first week of my 9th grade year our civics teacher called for a poll. He asked everyone which party they would vote for. Some hands went up for Democrat, some for Republican, and a couple for “other”. His next question was why. Most of the class said, “Because that’s the way my parents vote”. He then told us that that year he was going to teach us to think for ourselves. That really got to me because he was exactly right. Are we any better than animals without the ability to think for ourselves? Not much better.
This is why I believe it is important that everyone has their own opinions and that everybody should try to respect and understand each other’s views. Even if in strong disagreement, and even if it is an annoying kid trying to aggravate his sister.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.