Growing up, I was always impressed with the way my big brother seemed to have an opinion on everything. A strong one too. Even now, when I encounter someone with a firm opinion, backed up with clear argument, it’s impressive. As a teenager I looked up to my brother and how, without apology, he made it clear where he stood on any subject. I sought to emulate him, deciding one day that I should begin forming opinions of my own. But it was hard work and I just didn’t seem bothered enough by most things to care.
It was made more difficult because, without too much effort, I can be persuaded by different sides of an argument. Add to that my ‘Please Others’ Driver, which insists I strive for harmony, and it quickly becomes easy for me to agree with contrasting views on the same subject. And if there is doubt in my mind, then my optimism and naivety combine to allow me to conclude that ‘people must know what they’re doing and I’m sure it will all work out okay.‘
Over the last year, however, I have begun to realise that there is no need for me to have an opinion on anything, and that the ones I do have can be released. Opinions only lead to judgements, so why not simply let go of everything? I am not defined by my opinions, and letting them go means I can be free of judgement. That should be reward enough, but less judgement also means more space for empathy and understanding. We become more open to seeing all angles. It’s the same as when we let go of our expectations about how things should be. Not only that, there is also a natural movement away from attachment.
In any case, an opinion, by definition, is based on incomplete information. Whenever we form an opinion about something or someone, we are never fully informed. What we think about that person or that circumstance is only a rough approximation of the truth. Therefore, why bother at all? It’s fine to have likes and dislikes, and it’s important to have principles, but do you need your opinions? They are only really useful when you do something with them. Just stating them and defending them does not move the world forward; and the time and energy spent in forming, maintaining, and protecting them could be put to much better use.
Alongside this realisation about opinions, there has been a slower-burning realisation that, in important ways, I have been right all along. In the past I deferred too easily, too often, and for too long to those people who gave the impression that they knew what they were doing. But over the last 4-5 years I have seen more and more that I know what is good for me. It reminds me of one of the major lessons regarding comparisons with others: no-one can know my story fully, so no-one can know what is best for me better than myself. Similarly, I cannot know what is best for someone else. I can only have an opinion, and we know what I can do with that.