In My Humble Opinion

The fabric of society is such that it constantly tests our values. Sometimes, I feel as though I stand at the chasm between right and wrong, wondering if I can ever practice all the lessons I’ve learned. I find myself exclaiming with joy if I receive a gift I don’t like. There go my hopes of being truthful, lost to the crinkling sound of gift-wrapping paper. I believe I must consider the time and effort spent on a gift that was purchased and wrapped for me. My personal opinion doesn’t matter half as much. At other times, an older person makes a sweeping statement about lifestyle choices which tempts me to tell them off. Yet, I respond with a barely audible sigh and let it slide. Do I stand up for my beliefs or respect the elders even if they’re clearly behind the times? If I’m asked to comment on an outfit someone’s wearing, nine out of ten times I say, ‘It’s nice,’ even though my opinion differs. I’m neither a hypocrite nor afraid of speaking my mind. I’m aware that my opinion will not add value to that particular moment.

Sometimes an ill intended opinion can hound us forever. One seldom forgets a childhood bully’s jibes.  Words like ‘fatso,’ ‘specks-y,’ ‘weakling,’ are thrown around carelessly by adolescents. Similarly, an irritated parent’s remark about our resemblance to a black sheep (there’s usually one) in the family can torment us for a long time. And, almost everyone has had a teacher telling them they’re hopeless simply because they forgot to complete a small task like a day’s homework. Even if they’re voicing an iota of truth (a necessity for a parent, mentor or guardian) a point has to be made with well-chosen words. After all we have a vast vocabulary to pick from. One can say ‘shy’ instead of ‘tongue-tied’ and ‘economical’ instead of ‘cheap’ and so on. Besides, speaking isn’t only about words. It’s also about posture, tone, timbre, attitude, mood and civility.

One can always choose to withhold an unprofessional opinion when asked. Someone may have merely been seeking reassurance about their choice or appearance. The unbecoming outfit has been worn, the weight has been put on or lost and the unsuitable partner has become a part of their lives. Should an outsider be the one to goad them into staring at the mirror in doubt? Of doubting a relationship they know little about? What makes someone happy is their business. Similarly, what makes them unhappy is also their business. An external perception of their life choices may be detrimental to them in the long run. After all no one really knows what’s best.  Hence, of everything I’ve learned, the most important lesson is to keep my opinion to myself. Not every thought needs to be voiced.

Besides, the interpretation of our surroundings is a subjective experience. A conversation that sounds right in my head may seem utterly wrong to another. People go through phases so it hurts to be called ‘incapable,’ or ‘lazy’ when we don’t know the struggles they’re facing at that particular moment. We define ourselves as good or bad human beings by the fine lines of our conduct so we ought to know when we’ve crossed the line between rude and truthful, interfering and helpful, instructive and disruptive. After all we are connected through language and words. If we believe chants and mantras have the power to soothe us then surely harsh words have the power to unsettle us. Yet, more than ever before, people have begun to believe that they have a right to voice their opinions. That voicing their opinions defines them as forthright or truthful. I say to them that the futility of constantly airing our views is summed up in this quote by the Great Buddha-People with opinions just go about bothering one another.

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