Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thoughts on the Nature of Opinions


I didn't just decide to think the way I do. I didn't just get up and say, sure I'll have a strong opinion here and I'll disagree with everybody there. It's not as easy as choosing one option over another. I think that we have less control than we realize over what we find convincing and what we don't. We may be able to control our starting point. We may have some control over the trajectory we take when we start out. We can control who we listen to, we can control what we read, we can control the breadth of the scope of what influences us, but controlling whether or not we are compelled or convinced is much less simple. I can read David Jeremiah for hours, but its not gonna make me agree with him.

We do begin with a certain trajectory, a direction toward a particular version of ourselves. If we internalize and emphasize a desire to be compassionate over against a desire to be successful, for example, our decisions and disciplines regarding that direction are bound to shape how we respond to the information to which we are exposed. But beyond that, there's little we can do to control our opinions. After all, if I thought my opinions were wrong, I'd just just get new ones.

In light of the reality of human depravity concerning our our control of personal perspective, we should engage with one another in great humility, realizing that people don't just choose to disagree... they just do. This does not mean that we can't embrace difference, this does not mean we should correct and engage in civil dialogue with one another. We can merely invite one another to see things our way, engage the same sources we do, and consider our perspective. We can be clear and creative in our arguments and advocacy for the health of our culture, for the healing of the world, and for the depth of relationship. But we cannot control whether or not people agree with us.

I suppose I'm writing this somewhat out of frustration. I'm trying to conceptualize my existence in a context in which I often doubt my own sanity. While on the one hand, I want to be understood and I am tired of feeling so different, on the other hand I am constantly asking myself the question, "how on earth can these people think like this?!" I am at fault in this as well.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

I agree. I am seeing more and more that, typically, when i disagree with someone, it isn't simply a matter that we disagree in what we think - we are completely different in how we think.

WES ELLIS said...

Amdrew,
Totally... I think that a great deal of disagreement has more to do with personality difference than it does with information. Indeed, I think there is a level of arrogance in the assumption that if only people knew what I knew, they'd think like I do.

So now the big question is, how do we disagree well?

Wes