Opinion fascinates me. Not people’s opinions, they’re usually rather predictable and easy to process. Rather, the idea of opinion fascinates me.
We end arguments with, “Well, that’s my opinion.” as if this makes us at least mostly right and definitely beyond being questioned on the matter. We also have this tendency to answer questions with, “Well, it depends on your opinion.” and expect people to understand that it would make us very uncomfortable to either commit to an answer or imply that someone’s opinion is wrong.
There’s a reason for this. It’s because any other answer or ending would bring us into a discussion of truth. Truth is not a comfortable concept. We like to act like it is, but it isn’t. Even for those of us with strong definitions of truth on many given topics, it can bring on those scenarios of incredibly tangible impasse with somebody who holds as strongly to an opposing truth. I think that’s why the idea of opinion has taken such a prominent position in our culture and belief systems.
Here’s the thing about truth though – there can be only one. It’s like a cheesy science fiction movie in that way.
Recently I’ve felt bombarded by claims from different people that have discovered the “truth” about something. More often than not, when I actually examine their claims I find that instead of finding an obvious, over-arching truth, they have usually found “a truth” that may or may not make sense in the grand scheme of things but definitely supports a way of thinking they already had when they went looking for “the truth”.
Growing up in the conservative church, we called this proof-texting. We all railed against it, and we all did it. We, or the particular preacher, teacher, historian, or novelist that we loved, would find a quote that taken all by itself would make our point beautifully. We would then tout this snippet all over the place to make sure everyone knew that what we believed was true and we had proof.
There’s a problem; two problems actually. First, this never actually seemed to convince anyone who already disagreed with us. Second, genuine, honest, discerning people always see right through proof-texting. All you have to do is take a book, passage, or speech as a whole instead of in isolated snippets and all of a sudden you get a complete picture of what is being presented. More often than most will admit, doing so dismantles the “truth” that we have found.
This is because the purpose of truth is not to prove us right. The purpose of truth is to change us so that we are right. That’s the nature and definition of truth. Truth can not always be what we want it to be. Truth will always be what it is regardless of what we want.
So that brings us to a question: which is more important, to be right with our current opinion or to be right regardless of whether it fits into our opinions about how the world is?
I really do believe that truth is supposed to change people. I also believe that it never will as long as we go looking for truth to back up what we already believe. The only way truth will actually change us is if we empty ourselves of our pride before we go looking for it.
You know what’s interesting? The people who have changed profoundly because they let truth change opinions that they held near and dear are the people who have the least trouble sticking to truth as truth and don’t have to revert to an opinion. They’re also much gentler with people who still have contradicting opinions. I think it’s safe to say that evidence of the fruit of the spirit is good clue that we’re on the right track, wouldn’t you?