I am going to sound a bit too personal and probably a bit too irritable in this post, but I figured that someone out there in my audience-land may need to hear this today.
I am an unapologetically thinking, thought-full, thought-provoking woman. I am both an energetic teacher and a seeking life-learner. I am overly empathetic and feistily philosophical and I have a strong worldview that tries hard – really hard — to be ethical and moral, but also flexible and open-minded. I try to not close my mind by the continual process of opening my heart. I am equally passionate and limited, hard-working and lazy, and the yin and yang of that kind of energy keeps me humbled. I believe in the greatness of the human spirit, the fallenness and brokenness of each of us and our institutions, and that there is Someone, Something, that IS but Is Not Us, that moves throughout the cosmos with justice, wisdom, creativity, goodness and most of all, love.
And here is my getting irritable part of all this: I will do my very best, no matter when, what or to whom, to sincerely apologize when I am wrong. BUT I am sick to the point of anger and distraction of being asked to apologize for how it makes “you feel” when I am right.
There are some things that are not open to opinion. There are some things that are black or white, right or wrong. People really can be either thoughtful and intelligent and wise or unthinking, stupid, and foolish. As a matter of fact, we all are sometimes one or the other of these things, and to insist that we are never stupid or foolish or are never just plain, downright wrong, has opened the Pandora’s Box of Evils currently assailing the modern world. There is good. And there is evil. And there is just plain messing up, making mistakes, or being misguided or selfish. When I am any of those things, I, just like you do, try to hide behind denial, justification, falsehoods, or anger. But I also try to want to change that knee-jerk response, and realize sooner rather than later when I have been wrong or wronging and to course-correct when possible.
What I don’t want to change however, is thinking that it is somehow “ethical” to be “nice” to people who are wrong. I am not speaking here of being kind to all and loving our enemies – that is something completely different both philosophically and spiritually. I am talking about dialing back truth and allowing people to go on thinking they are “entitled to their opinions” when those opinions have ethical consequences both for them and for the world. And why, yes, there ARE times I am quite sure that I am right because the opposing idea is showing its ugly underbelly or the fungus of fallacious thinking and irrational arguments that grow out of someone’s defenses of the wrong side of something.
This is what having a valid, working worldview means. It means I have tools with which to examine ideas and actions – my own, and yes, others’. And if I am trying to have a growing, moral, ethical worldview, and not a completely self-centered, stagnant, directionless worldview, then – why yes, I will confidently say, “this is not an opinion, this is the right way to think / act / live”. In other words, there are times we need to say: “Let’s look at the current hypothesis and then apply our worldviews and see if the theory can stand up to the standard of Truth.”
So even if we do not have all the facts about something, we can still apply an ethical, right vs. wrong, good vs. evil worldview microscope / magnifying glass / telescope to what we can currently observe, know, and act upon.
So while I will always try to use my empathetic nature to understand anyone’s point of view, I won’t excuse it as a valid “opinion” if it is wrong. I am not able to kill the engine on my critical thinking skills nor will I accept as opinion, those things which grow out of falsehoods or broken, or sometimes hateful hearts. And if I am wrong, I will be, if not always the first, at least at the head of the line to own up to it.
I don’t want a world where everyone is like me – God forbid. I wish everyone would care about the things I am writing about here, but that is not the real intent of these thoughts on myself. I tell you some things about what I am like, to try to explain the following analysis of this post’s philosophical musings:
It matters to me– Who I Am, Who I Am Becoming, and (with a whole lot of help and faith and humility) Who I Can Be. I do not want to be content with the way things are, either for me or for the world. To riff on one of my favorite quotes by Tolkien, “I hate the times I have conflicts with people and the bad stuff that seems to be happening in my world today, but all we have to decide is what to do with the time and the character qualities that are given to us.”
I may be nothing in the scale of human achievement and I may be only a small bit of dust in a vast Eternal Cosmos, but all that matters to me right now, in this moment, is to believe that in some inexplicable way: I matter. And if I matter? Then You Matter.
Somehow, our very matter miraculously matters.
Who We Are + What We Do = Our True Purpose in Life
What I Do with Who I Am is what is called “Ethics”. Who I Try to Be, with Whatever is Done To or For Me, is called Courage. And when Who I Am and What I Do has both ethical intent and courageous truth-telling action, then I am that Imago Dei, that very singularly spiritually-distilled essence that I am created to be – the very only, unique version of a glorious, flawed, amazing human being that is heroically ….. Me.
A friend recently and kindly responded to a post of mine with this comment: “I agree with everything you said, except the part where you say ‘I’m sorry for writing this’ because I don’t think, Jane, that you are sorry. And you shouldn’t be sorry”. And she was right. And I was wrong. I am not sorry for when I am right and I will not apologize any more for the things I do and say that might make someone realize he or she is wrong. And the many times I am wrong, I will do my best to make it right. But, no I am not going to apologize any more for when I am in the right, even if someone doesn’t like it. Even if someone doesn’t like me. Because there is always a slight chance that someone will learn something they need to know, and that together, we can learn how to make the world a better, truer more right-eous place for everyone.
But no matter what, True Truth has a way of flinging itself upon the moorings of the world and shoring up all that is right with Her, despite us, and thankfully, sometimes, because of us.
While we, of course, may indeed have differing opinions on a host of things, when we begin to think everything is open to opinion, we lose the very strength and security of the foundations we need so desperately to stand on and the reality we need to exist in as sentient beings. Someone may knock me down with hurtful words or by taking a little angry stance on what they see as their “opinion”, but though I may be hurt or irritated or aghast, it is not about me. There is a reality to our existence that is true and good whether we are aware of it or not. It thankfully matters not if I am right, for being right does not make me who I am. But it matters a whole, whole lot if I can never admit I am wrong, because knowing I am wrong is the only thing that can change what I do and being able to change what I think and what I do is what makes me more than a mere animal. It makes me a human soul. We who believe that there is Some Thing, Some One more in the world that puts in all of us a desire for a better, more whole existence can hang on to this assurance: Right will always Rise to the Top. As Maya Angelou, preaches in a poem, that is about black women, but which I’d like to think can be about any Righteous Cause or True Truth:
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”
Unapologetically flawed but often entertaining, Thoughtful Woman—Seeks Those Who Want to RISE TOGETHER! Pet-opinions allowed only in open spaces. Willingness to admit being wrong is a must. Must also be willing to insist on being right. Desire others who are seeking-out truth and have a worldview open to learning and change. Hopefulness, not necessary, will be provided when together. Any race, age, gender, or social strata welcome. Contact if you are like me and looking for a “Good” Time.
P.S. I liked so much some additional thoughts that I posted in a comment to my fellow blogger, lensdailydiary, that I wanted to add them as a postscript here.
lensdailydiary: Thank you so much for reading and the insightful comment — a lot to unpack in your comment but where I’d like to respond or “leave it” at least just for today is: you are exactly right about our need to evolve. And what you indicate both by your own musings and your example is that in many arenas there is an overlap or perhaps, I should say, a shifting understanding between what is an opinion and what is a more eternal or firm standard or “code” as you say that should be lived by.
My own example would be something more like telling lies. While we may have differing opinions about why or when a person might “shade” the truth (maybe to protect someone or they are afraid or they don’t stop to think about the consequences until it is too late, etc. etc.) when there is a consistent pattern of using falsehoods to manipulate people or lying in order to trick or “best” someone, or lying because one is greedy or selfish, then there should be no “opinion” about whether an accountability in the relationship and the ethical reverberations must be addressed. If the person who has lied is unwilling to admit they are wrong, that is, and unwilling to try to course-correct from the consequences of the misdeeds in the relationship. This would be true whether it is between two spouses, child and parent, or leader and citizens, etc. etc. When we constantly justify our behaviors with the excuse that it is only a matter of differing opinions, or worse yet, we blame what we think on a fallacy meant to put down the other person’s character, that is where we end up on the slippery slope of having no ethical standards to see a relationship / community / nation through the good and the bad.
Your other thoughtful idea here, is that whether some particular idea or point of view should be spoken of as right and wrong and not merely opinion has a lot to do with the relationship between people. Again, the onus of speaking truth to one’s own “people”, whether national or communal or familial, is different than that of speaking truth to those whose “shoes we do not walk in”. For example — for me personally to say something is wrong for people I am close to and am willing to support both financially, emotionally, spiritually, in other words give to them what they need to actually be ethical in a tough situation, or to those who claim to share a particular worldview with me, is a critically important and necessary thing, and we dishonor both those people and whatever grouped worldview we share when we do not speak true truth to the problems. But if I am trying to speak to people who live very differently than I do, then it may become an “opinion only” for me to address anything but the most fundamental issues of human morality.
I think what I like best about your comment, is that my own musings are not meant to make this whole thing seem easy (it certainly never has been for me) — and we should not always take the easy way out to avoid conflict by remaining silent or seeing everything as an opinion — your comment adds to this in a very perceptive way — as you always do! Thanks so much for “answering my ad” (haha) and being one of those thoughtful, thinking people I am privileged to try to figure this whole thing out with.
Wishing you courage and joy in the journey ~~ Jane
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