A Matter of Opinion

Written by BG Howard

May 31, 2023

When recently engaged in a conversation that included two individuals who had differing understandings of a situation, I realized the potential consequences when people take an unwavering stand on any issue. The two long-time friends and I were discussing matters concerning the current political landscape of our country. Ultimately, one individual became somewhat annoyed with the other and what was birthed as a fairly intelligent exchange of ideas quickly digressed into a full-blown argument. With me unwittingly trying to be the voice of reason, I ended up in the middle of the two which eventually resulted with them angry at me for simply trying to keep the peace.

After the dust settled, the two “former” friends were no longer speaking to one another and expected me to choose between them. When I refused to allow a difference of opinion to be the catalyst that manifested the downfall of a decade old friendship, both of them established they no longer wanted to speak to me until I drew a clear line in the sand.

That is the reason I’d always maintained a general rule that kept me away from discussions of politics and religion. To note: there is a distinct difference between religion and spirituality but that’s another conversation for another time. I’ll admit it wasn’t until recently that the uncanny tug of our recent presidential election drew me in like a moth to a flame and I was fully engrossed before realizing it.

At the point I submitted my column to Jamie last week, he responded with a gut punch thanking me for finally deciding to steer clear of the political subject matter due to his having received a number of complaints about what appeared to be my position. I respectfully conceded to having inadvertently gotten “caught up” in the treacherous current of the debacle otherwise identified as the presidential election.

Beyond the dismantled friendships and a dose of wisdom from the editor, I spent a considerable amount of time pondering the concept of opinions and what they actually represent. In any case, when I’m allowed a weekly platform to express mine, a sincere effort is made to research and verify any information presented so as to at least have grounds for making a substantial case in support of the conclusion drawn.

The unfortunate truth, however, lies in the fact that no matter how much information I have to support the position held it still amounts to little more than my personal opinion. As stated previously, I am sincerely appreciative of Mr. Gardner (Calm down Jamie, in this case the reference is warranted.) for allowing me this forum and my purpose moving forward is to not over-extend my reach. A very wise man once told me that a person’s worth isn’t evaluated based upon the fact they make mistakes but assessed by how they choose to deal with the errors.

In truth, we are all entitled to our opinions and most will convey them whether asked to do so or not. Certain cases warrant the presentation of a valid viewpoint but there are situations when, no matter how strongly one feels, it’s best to keep speculation to a minimum.

Regardless of the circumstances, understanding that each individual is just as entitled to his/her opinion as any other will most often take the typical disagreement in a direction that can be easily navigated toward a civil conclusion. It is when a person engaged in conversation refuses to see any position other than his/hers that any possibility for compromise is essentially tossed out the window.

The long and short of it comes down to the one aspect of life that can’t be negotiated as there is no “middle ground” where respect is concerned. For a person to automatically resort to insults and the task of belittling someone with whom he/she has a differing view only speaks to the deficiency of that individual’s intellectual capacity. Nothing justifies ridiculing a person simply because they have a different understanding or feeling about an issue. That’s the point most intelligent Neanderthals actually determine it’s necessary to engage in a meaningful, and perhaps, enlightening conversation as the desire to understand is the basis for all knowledge. This is the one element that separates man from the rest of God’s creations.

So, when engaged in conversation and a difference of opinion becomes apparent, don’t allow it to fester into an ugly boil that only serves to disrupt an opportunity for growth. Understand that the other conversationalist shouldn’t be viewed as an opponent, just a sounding board that provides occasion for the fine tuning of one’s intellect; whether for positive growth or the understanding of a unique point of view. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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