Who hasn’t heard that opinions are like noses: everyone has them? The problem is that not all opinions are equal. The bigger problem, though, is that there are a million forums these days for people to give their bad opinions. What makes a bad opinion bad? It has nothing to do with whether you or I agree with the other person. It doesn’t have to do with whether or not we like the other person. It doesn’t even have to do with what the person has done in the past. The leading cause of having bad opinions is the lack of understanding within the opinion. In other words: they are uninformed opinions. I long for the days when people would be okay with saying, “I don’t know enough on the subject to form an opinion.”
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame,” (v. 13, ESV). The word for “hear” carries with it the idea of understanding. So “If one gives an answer before he understands, it is his folly and shame.” This goes for all of life. How often do arguments between husband and wife happen because rather than seeking to understand, they are seeking to be understood? It is not wrong to want to be understood. No one wants to be misunderstood. But each of us should afford the same courtesy to the other person/people that we desire to have for ourselves. Before seeking to be understood, we should seek to understand. That way we do not give our answer beforehand, thus acting foolishly and shamefully.
Many people will tweet, post, blog, and forward information that looks good because it agrees with their own preconceived notions on a subject they know little about. They will also respond to others of differing opinions who may have tweeted, posted, blogged, or forwarded with little understanding themselves. What results tends to be a foolish and shameful discourse between the two. I’ve done it myself, and come away feeling dumb and feeling like it was a waste of time. Solomon also wrote (in the same chapter), “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion,” (18:2, ESV). Ouch. That would indicate that a wise person takes pleasure in understanding, not simply stating his thoughts. Think about that for a moment. A foolish person wants to speak but should remain silent. A wise person wants to understand, and so remains silent, only speaking when appropriate.
Perhaps we all need to be a bit wiser. Perhaps we should simply say, “I don’t know enough on the subject to form an opinion.” There is dignity and grace in that response. Most people will respect a person who is honest. When he/she does speak up about an issue, it will give more weight to what is said, because everyone will know that the person has enough information and understanding to speak. That’s my hope for myself. When I grow old, I want people to say behind my back, “He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, everyone listens.”