“We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.” ~Zhuangzi
Lately, I’ve been asking myself: Do I really have to have an opinion about the upcoming U.S. presidential election?
I live in Canada and my views won’t make any difference. Yet, I find myself sucked into the drama and controversy. And even when I don’t say anything, someone will ask me about it. It’s hard to turn off everyone and everything.
Today, social media, and traditional media to some extent, play a major role in steering our eyeballs, and attention, towards emotionally charged topics—politics, religion, and social issues to name a few.
We usually have strong attitudes and beliefs that compel us to engage more fervently. And because it’s so easy to go online and say whatever comes to mind—without much thought—we find ourselves engulfed in heated arguments that go beyond healthy and respectful debate. Before we know it, the arguments turn into battles of the egos.
We take things too seriously and spend hours upon hours trying to validate our views … and we forget to ask the most important question.
What’s the point?
In spite of the overwhelming noise around any issue, we need to stop and ask ourselves: Do our opinions matter? How do they impact our lives?
When we look at the countless opinions we form about countless issues, we realize that most of the opinions we take so seriously are trivial and inconsequential.
Would our lives be better, our relationships stronger, or our actions more effective, if we commented on any (or every) trending, or controversial topic?
In most cases, opinions are a distraction and a waste of time and energy that can be put to better use.
The appeal of opinions
An opinion is an expression of our view on any given issue, or situation. On the surface, it’s our voice. On a deeper level, an opinion is a representation of our beliefs and identity—a sacred territory for the ever so insecure ego that doesn’t distinguish between the essential and the trivial.
We need to take a step back and assess the importance of any opinion, before the ego drags us deeper into the abyss of seeking validation.
The reality of opinions
Our opinions only matter when we are in a position to affect positive change—by making conscious choices. The rest is pretty much useless mental and emotional clutter.
Before expressing an opinion, consider the following.
- Opinions are not facts. They are an expression of a point of view.
- Opinions are not actions. They are labels we stick to reality. They may, or may not, have a deep personal meaning.
- Opinions are not binding commitments. They can change in the blink of an eye. They’re far less important than principles.
- Opinions are not necessarily rational. They’re biased, and can be misguided and influenced by others.
- Opinions are not essential. We can live just fine without them.
“Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.” ~E. B. White
Letting go of trivial opinions
What would happen if we consciously chose not to have an opinion?
If we’re not invested in an issue, do we need to know what’s going on? How much do we care about celebrities’ romantic entanglements, or political scandals, or our coworkers latest gossip?
If an issue is important to us, we can take action without the need to engage in ego driven battles of perceived good or bad. We do what feels right, and move on.
We don’t need to drop all opinions, but we can definitely drop the many unimportant opinions. We can then release ourselves from the grip of social pressure, and breathe.
Not having an opinion is not an invitation to become apathetic. Apathy means we don’t care because we can’t do anything about it. It’s rooted in helplessness.
Not having an opinion is about awareness of what’s important and what we can actually do.
The rewards of not having an opinion
When you drop the notion of wanting to have an opinion, and let go of the trivial distractions, you’ll experience, some, if not all, of the following.
- Relief from ego driven compulsions to say something.
- Freedom from wanting to prove a point and be right.
- Peace of mind when you embrace reality as it is without the need to argue and engage in needless negativity.
- Mental and emotional space to explore, learn and play with an open mind and heart.
- Focus on meaningful action and what truly matters.
- Motivation to creatively express your truth, and the opinions that matter, in ways that add beauty and harmony to the world.
When we stop and examine the many opinions we have, we realize that nothing will happen if we dropped most of them. And if we have an important opinion, we don’t need to vocalize it—not out of fear, but out of freedom from ego driven desires.
Instead of creating more conflict in the world and adding to our own stress, we can choose peace of mind. We can replace opinions with calm reflection and focus on how we can live our lives.
And when we have a view about something important, we can choose quiet action over loud empty opinions.
“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
When you feel the urge to have an opinion ask yourself: Would I rather have an opinion or be at peace?