About 8 or 10 years ago, I was shopping inside an Old Navy store and was busy checking out when the most horrendous set of flip flops caught my eye. They looked like someone had hot glued plastic daisies on the tops and I started laughing at how ridiculously ugly they were. So much so, that I arrogantly asked the cashier how in world they even carried them much less sold them. She sheepishly told me that they had sold quite a few.
I was put in my place another time when I expressed to a dear friend of mine, that perhaps the painting of sunflowers she had hanging on her wall, large and childlike, might be better off in another room of her restaurant. She locked her gaze steely-eyed into mine and matter of factly said, “then it’s a good thing it’s MY painting and not yours”. Ouch.
I cringe when I think back to the audacious behavior I exhibited so many years ago, but the bigger lesson I learned is that my opinion was in fact, a mere thought, and one not necessarily shared by everyone and furthermore, my opinion weighed no more or less than the person who’s opinion was directly opposite of my own.
Opinions are not facts and they are not truths. They are one persons point of view and that particular perspective is formed and heavily influenced by background, surroundings, peers, and often not having anything to do with knowledge or education. That’s why favorite colors and favorite songs are opinions and not a right or wrong choice. That’s why arguments become heated when our beliefs are argued against.
Opinions become judgements when the one doling them out decides there is no opposing viewpoint that could possibly be as valid and are chided as being ridiculous or without taste or merit or any number of other names that are bandied about.
It would sometimes be nice if we all had the same opinion on politics or had the same taste in design or the same thoughts on parenting but in all honesty, what a boring world we would live in. Character isn’t built out of tidy and uncluttered existences. It is sometimes fueled by selfishness, arrogance, immaturity, and the unpredictability of life. The only escape is the acceptance of the open mind, the reality of choice, of knowing that you are but one in 6.7 billion. In short, humility wins the day.
There is ALWAYS more than one side to a story, always a chance to find commonality and ultimately, peace.
Our viewpoints are most often based in the re-telling of stories, of familial history, philosophical yearnings deeply entrenched in our core. To hear the other side of a story is to have the opportunity to learn more, to love more, to soften our stance and accept that we are not the supreme ruler of thought.
I still think of those flip flops as pretty darn awful but I know that’s just my opinion. I know that someone came up with that design and their opinion is obviously equally valid. I came to love the sunflowers in that painting when I heard the story behind the 5 year old painter suffering from disease. It was a gift to my friend and she considered it an honor to be hung in her establishment.
Listen quietly. Stop the chatter every once in a while. Learn the story of another tender soul.