It’s OK to NOT Have an Opinion

“If I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you…”    My big brother

You slowly shuffle onto an elevator during one of your hospital visitation days, edging your way through the crowd towards an open back wall spot.  As you survey the mix of people in car as it ascends, you notice a girl in her mid twenties who looks like she’s headed for the maternity ward.  “So,” you ask, “when’s your baby due?  I just love babies!”   The slightly miffed young lady in the elevator glares back at you and replies, “I’m not pregnant!”   Oooops!!!  That situation didn’t go well.

OK, so how about this one?   You are obviously on the cutting edge of the church growth movement, and no one knows as well as you do what it takes to reach this generation.  There are so many things that the people in your church are doing wrong if they ever want to grow, and you are convinced that if they would just listen to your dynamic suggestions for change, attendance would soar.  One thing that has caught your attention is the physical decor of the church’s Fellowship Hall.  You’re absolutely certain that no young or progressive family will ever darken the doors of the church as long as it has this horrid carpet.  You feel obligated to share your interior design skills, your savvy for style, and your keen sense of perception with the group at your table.  “I think this carpet is the ugliest color I have ever seen”, you exclaim during a midweek fellowship dinner at your new church.  “What fool picked out lime green for the carpet color?”   The lady seated across responds through pursed lips, “My mother picked this out the week before she died.”  Instantly you realize that you’ve not made the best impression on the wife of the chairman of the Personnel Committee.  Oooops again.

Hey, sometimes it just happens.  You speak when you should have been silent.  You joked when you should have been serious.  You criticized when you should have kept quiet.  It’s a bad case of “Foot In Mouth” disease, and at the rate you’re going, you’ll have fungus all the way down your throat.  For some reason, you find yourself consistently on the offending end of tense situations.  You don’t mean to do it; you’re actually a pretty nice person.  But for whatever reason or reasons, you have trouble keeping yourself from committing “verbal suicide”.

Keeping your foot out of your mouth all of the time is next to impossible.  At some point along the way, most of us say something out of place, to the wrong person or just something that is just plain dumb.  We’re embarrassed.  They are embarrassed.  We’re afraid.  They’re mad.  We’re confused.  They’re violent.  Therefore, it’s not realistic to believe that you will never say something that offends or disturbs another.  It’s the frequency of those events that you and I must work on diminishing.

One very simple rule may help you more than anything else.  Write this principle across your forehead, and paint it across your doorframes.  Remind yourself of it first thing in the morning when you get up, and last thing at night when you go to sleep, if you have to.  Here it is.  Ready?

YOU DON’T KNOW IT ALL.

That’s right, you are human- you’re mortal.  Nowhere in your resume does it use the word “omniscient” (at least, it shouldn’t).  The good news is this… there is no way you can be an expert on everything.  The better news is well, even better.  No one expects you to be an expert on everything!

You don’t have to have an opinion on every event, every issue or every decision that is going on within your church.  I don’t know how you feel about that, but it should be an awesome relief!  You are actually allowed to use the phrases, “I don’t know”, “I don’t care”, and “I don’t really have an opinion on that”!  Now, don’t be surprised if people still press you at times for your perspective, even when you don’t want to offer it.  They will.  But save yourself the grief, and stick to your guns if you don’t really have an opinion.  Hang on even tighter to Mount No Commitment if you don’t have a clue about the issue or what’s going on.

Several great things happen when you develop the habit of not always offering an opinion.  First, you are certain to save yourself a huge amount of grief.  There are times when you’re pressed for an opinion, or tempted to offer one unsolicited, that you will NOT be privy to all of the facts of the situation.  And those facts are usually the most important ones, and the ones that make you and your opinion look really stupid.

Second, it keeps you from having to backtrack, explain or apologize on a continual basis.  An uneducated or uninformed opinion will always bring you into conflict with the people who actually know all the facts.  I remember seeing a bumper sticker once that said, “People who think they know everything really bother those of us that do”.  As silly as that seems, it really is the truth.  Guard the reputation of your intellect- SHUT UP!  Yes, if you keep your mouth shut, people might think you’re dumb.  But better they just think it than for you to open your mouth and prove that fact to them.

Finally, the less often you foist your opinion on others, the more valuable it makes your opinion when you finally DO have one.  There’s an old story about an extended family that lived together- Grandma, her son, his wife and three kids.  Grandma had lived many years, and though she rarely gave counsel, when she did it was usually very thoughtful and very wise.  The daughter-in-law, on the other hand, had an opinion on just about anything and everything.

One day the father came home to find the house was flooded.  It seems Junior had started to fill a bathtub for himself when he was interrupted by a phone call from a friend next door, inviting him to come out and play.  His wife had been in the kitchen preparing dinner; Grandma was in her room resting, and the other kids were so focused on the TV that they hadn’t noticed the cascading waterfall down the shag carpet on the front staircase.  Instantly the dad cried out to his wife to bring all of the pots and pans, towels and dish rags she could find.  His wife quickly ordered one child to go find her wandering brother, and for the other to retrieve the wet/dry vacuum from the garage.  The entire crew set to work furiously to contain the torrent, but no matter how hard they worked, it only seemed to get worse.  The gathered fans to blow on the carpet, and opened the windows to let the breeze blow through the house.  The harder they worked, the wetter things got.  After what seemed like forever trying to deal with the indoor flood, Grandma moved slowly into the room to offer her advice.  “I know you’ve tried the mop, the wet/dry vacuum, towels, and fans and even used the poodle to soak up some of the water.  But I think it would help if someone would go upstairs and turn off the water.”  Grandma’s opinion, though not offered often, or even immediately, was still the best solution to the problem.

But for most of us, our problem is that we’re more interested in getting out our preconceived notions, our prejudiced perspective, or our emotional reaction to stopB stop and wait until we have an opinion worth offering before we offer one.  So wait… keep your foot out of your mouth.  You really don’t know it all.  But someday you might know more than someone else.  Help them be ready to hear it by keeping your opinions holstered till then.

 

Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. When do you think it is IMPORTANT to give your opinion?
  2. Do you believe you have to earn the right to have an opinion?  What about to share an opinion?
  3. Are there issues or situations that you think a minister should NOT share his/her opinion?  If so, what are they?  If not, then why?

Personal Learning Activities

  1. What are the benefits to those around me if I share my opinions with them? What possible harm is there?
  2. Should I share an opinion on an issue, person or situation that I am uninformed or under informed about?  Why or why not?
  3. When someone shares an opinion that I disagree with, most times I…

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