We seem to be an opinionated people.
Name a topic, and people have opinions. Television, radio, and the Internet (not to mention coffee shops and church pews) are drowning in opinions on the president, the best team in football, and the names celebrities give to their children.
True experts are few and far between, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Everybody with a Twitter account can share their opinions with the world. We can ignore the science on climate change if enough people share their opinions with clever status updates. Who needs a political science expert when all we have to do is check out the opinions of movie stars and musicians?
I would like to point out two downsides to this publicly-opinionated culture.
First, people get too caught up in their opinions and miss out on actually living life. We see this whenever a disaster or triumph occurs. Without taking time to process the moment, many jump on their smart phones and share their opinions on the matter, as if they were the center of the story.
In the Bible, Paul suggested people rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and weep with those who are weeping. We go online and share our opinions about people who are weeping.
It’s like the person standing at Paradise, gazing up at Mount Rainier, sharing a long list of opinions about the mountain, (“it’s too cold,” “It’s not as tall as Mount Whitney,”) instead of putting on their boots and going for a hike.
Second, we risk making the story all about us. An example: After a recent mall shooting, I read responses that ranged from, “I went to a mall just like that once! That could have been me!” to, “Let me tell you all about my gun collection so you can see I’m a real man who wouldn’t let this happen to me!”
See the problem there? The story was the mall shooting. The victims were the people at that mall. But the responses were nothing more than opinions that stole attention from the real story, placing the focus in the wrong place.
I should qualify this by saying it’s not your opinions that bother me. It’s that, to many, an opinion is all that is necessary. Our involvement ends at having an opinion.
Emerson once wrote, “What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so loud that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” His point is that we can say all we want, but our lives tell the true story of who we are.
In the first edition of this article I toyed with titling it, “Nobody cares what you think.” In the end, that seemed a bit too rude (in my opinion). But perhaps it’s time we spent less time being opinionated, and more time rolling up our sleeves and actually doing something to make the world a better place.
Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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