Monday, July 9, 2012

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Opinionated

Want to know a secret about me? Back in my elementary school days I wished for a fundamental transformation of myself. I wished that I, like a few of my close friends, could also be shy. So shy in fact, that when I had an opinion about something I would just easily and happily keep my mouth closed about it. I believed people who were shy and quiet about sharing their opinions, were nicer people for it. You see, shy, quiet = nice, opinionated, outgoing = mean. And so my only logical conclusion was that I was, well - a jerk! As much as I tried to change, I couldn't! Believe me I tried! Believe me, I tried! But, I have failed at every attempt I made at being more quiet. Because, from the moment I was born up until the present day - I am a talker, I am a thinker, I am a reader, I am a speaker - and this loud mind of mine yells even louder inside my skull than some of my brashest opinions.

It's no easy thing to be opinionated. Let me tell you! ;)  Really though, being the contrarian when no one else from your camp is talking, is rough. Not only in the battle of words, but in the aftermath of it all as well. Though I have worked to suppress them, thoughts like, "I hate myself! I am so stupid! I can't believe I said that!" almost always make an appearance in the after-assessment any time I have spoken my thoughts aloud. Because well, opinions are generally controversial. They make people uncomfortable. They present a challenge or obstacle to the way people think, live, act, exist . . . One that they have to come to terms with through soul-searching, more education, more thinking, and sometimes changes to their beliefs or behavior, etc. to be able to go on living in the undisturbed way they were living before. And if they choose not to engage in thinking during the discussion that will lead them to soul-searching, more education or change - well, then they tend to just feel unkindly or annoyed toward the messenger (me.) So, not only do I have a battered brain and heart from tossing around opinions inside myself, I am also a target for negative feelings, and the cause of unrest and conflict in my fellow conversationalists. My challenging aloud causes others conflict that they were very often happy not feeling before I opened my loud mouth.

But, we live in a world where some of the loudest voices are the most ill-informed. Where the most valued principles of our falling society are against all common sense, decency, morality, reason and freedom. And those voices are so loud and busy calling names that the best solutions, ideas, stories, and principles are too often silenced. That silence of the truth and common sense emboldens and enlivens me more than any fear of retaliation for having spoken my piece. In the battlefield of ideas, I may lose - but to have given up before I had ever tried, would be the most devastating of all.

And so, I speak. While I have found that being opinionated and speaking up is too much a part of my nature to change, I am working to better incorporate the art of tact in expressing myself. Which is my trademark failing - especially when I really really care about the person. When things get ugly, I remind myself again of my mother's best marriage advice for me, "It's more important that your spouse feels loved, than that you are right." This is for marriage, but it also applies to friends. And our enemies? Well they could probably use a little love too. I'll add the caveat to this frilly paragraph, that I believe that love can sometimes feel tough with its honesty and sincerity. ;) But love or at least simple compassion should always be involved in our opinion-sharing, should it not? Otherwise, the biggest truth of any message shared is tarnished and somewhat flat.

Being opinionated does have its positives though. My favorite and very best friends are mine because I speak up. Some of them are loud like me, but many more are quiet. My husband is a quiet one, for example. :) But each of them knows they can come to me for an honest, open and bold place to discuss and explore - be it a political, social, moral, religious or personal issue. 

Though I am a Stay-at-home-Mom, discussion need never get stuck at the stagnate level of the cheerios in the bottom of my son's car seat around me.  With friends I can trust, and even sometimes with a stranger in the parking lot with a bold bumper sticker, the conversations I find myself involved in, are often filled with twists, turns, questions, answers, and passion.

The opinionated person does not live a comfortable life, but she does at least speak, hear, and engage in a very interesting and passionate one.

7 comments:

  1. I'd have to say I feel like I'm one of your more quiet friends. However, I do love to hear a good debate. So, keep your thoughts churning and your bright attitude shining.

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    1. Thank you, Amanda. :) I'm glad we are friends.

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  2. Great post! I sometimes feel very similar to what you described and it reminded me of a quote-

    "To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."
    -Aristotle

    Would that we all spoke out against the loud ill-informed voices.

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    1. That, Braun, is why we are friends! Haha. Awesome quote and sentiments.

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  3. Opinions and thoughts are vital! Your views make an important contribution. However, I must make a statement about your last paragraph:

    Being opinionated and being vocal are two different things -- we are wise when we do not confuse quietness with lack of passion. I've met many who are passionate, but choose to be careful (read: tight-lipped) with their words. Sometimes having others trample or willfully misunderstand ideas hurts, you know? And some are extremely sensitive to that kind of ouch.

    There have been times where I've unintentionally caused others to distance themselves from me because I was outspoken and didn't know enough of their life story and opinions to realize how thoughtless I was being. After I'd had my soapbox moment, it left them feeling uncomfortable and not willing to open up to me about their own experiences. Since then, I try to carefully couch my language in such a way that assures others that my opinions are not permanent, but rather a reflection of my current light and knowledge, and that I am always anxious to reconsider them as new ideas and information enters the picture.

    Anyway, that's my two cents. I know you're a heartening example of tact and graciousness, but it's so important I figured it's always worth sharing again: charm matters. A lot. Charity matters even more.

    That said, I had another thought... but it really pertains not so much to the inward-based thoughts of "This is who I am and what it means to be me," which seemed to be the center of this piece, and instead related more to the many thoughts I've had about "How do I be opinionated in a way that is inviting and even gentle and yet is me, with all my passion and color?"

    I've been reading a bit in this book called "Choosing Glory" about the art of persuasion, and how different it is from any sort of of compulsion. When you persuade someone, it HAS to begin with love, and it has to be patient. Really, it has to come about so gradually and beautifully that the suggestion or mind-changing of the other person is really their own, and your own role in it has been so quiet and graceful, they hardly are aware you've been a part of it -- it seems like it's all their own doing! The stories the author shared included many where the change literally took many months and often, many years. I kept thinking, "Could I be that patient? Could I love them more than MY IDEAS for that long? They always seem so urgent to me! Being quiet for that long seems unnatural -- impossible!" And yet the relationships the people had (spouses, parent/child, etc.) were so strengthened by their slow growth together, I thought they were some of the most beautiful stories ever. They were what real love looked like. In action.

    I've come to see that this is how Heavenly Father works with me, and this is how parents should work with their children, and how ... this is how ALL effective change happens.

    Anyway, it's a pretty involved thought, and I'm sure I've utterly slaughtered it. But now you know why I never comment on blogs: when I do, I say too much. And itakes me like an hour to write and edit all of this so that it sounds even slightly sensical.

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    1. Mickelle - Amen, amen, amen. You should have written this blog post instead of me! :) Beautiful and perfect as is everything you write.

      I am all too familiar with the pain of having people willfully misunderstand and/or trample my ideas. I have unknowingly offended others by my words as well - by not letting them know about my openness to other ideas as well. You voiced elements to the opinionated AND vocal person's experience that I did not explore enough. Thank you for adding to the dialogue.

      That book sounds fascinating. I'll have to read it. And to answer your rhetorical question, YES! You could be that patient because you already are! Your opinions have been some of the most influential in my life because you have been a deeply loving and compassionate friend.

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