My opinions are exactly that, an opinion, which is defined in the Merriam-Webster’s as:
- a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter
- belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge
- a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert
- the formal expression (as by a judge, court, or referee) of the legal reasons and principles upon which a legal decision is based
My opinions fall into the category of the first and second definitions in most cases, rarely do they fall into the third case, and never do they fall into the fourth case. To maintain some semblance of intellectual integrity, I must remember that my opinions are interpretations of facts or fiction, and are not facts. The more passionately I standby an opinion, the more that I fall into the second category the definition, where my belief has overridden my judgement with respect to the subject matter. I have given up my freedom when I no long use rational judgment. To rectify this, I need to do to things. First, I need to constantly stop and verify the legitimacy of my opinions, and after that I need to be willing to admit my previous opinion was wrong. The second step is the crucial step, for being able to admit that my prior opinion was incorrect frees me from the conceited prison of possessing and owning my opinions.
The first step is key to maintaining a vibrant intellectual life. I can easily turn my supposedly well-judged opinion into a dangerous, dogmatic belief that I can use to justify all sorts of thoughts and behaviors. When I take the time, pause, and begin to examine my opinions, and read opposing opinions, I am making progress towards developing my rational and logical thought process, rather than giving into the mentality of the mob at the moment. It is uncomfortable to be challenged by an opposing viewpoint, but it is necessary, and it is much better for me to be constantly doing this. This prepares me for when my opinions are unexpectedly challenged during interactions with other people. I come from a engineering background. I enjoy looking at data, but I understand that data is flawed and has its own embedded bias. However, I must accept validity of data, even at times when my own anecdotal experience is not in agreement. I am not an expert in most things. I must defer to those that are. This does not mean that I blindly accept ideas because they are communicated by experts. These experts are also flawed, with their own objectives, and data can be manipulated to suit the presenter’s goals. I must be educated enough to examine the motivations of the experts in the field to see if their conclusions are falsely driven by their own wayward beliefs. This all takes effort, but the effort is worth it.
The effort is worth it because the second step is the key to freedom. Often, my opinions are part of the problem. I put a higher value on my opinions because they originate from my own mind, and this is not rational or logical. It is egotistical and dangerous. The false validation of my personal opinions over the opinions of others puts me in a position to constantly be in conflict with others because I am valuing my own opinion more. This is false. Everyone’s opinions have powerful value to the person who owns them. I need to be constantly detaching myself from the belief in an opinion, and instead attaching myself to an active, unbiased appraisal. My opinions are never fact. They need to be flexible enough to include new facts as they are presented to me, even if it destroys my passionate beliefs. My own self-centered perspectives are crushed by the acknowledging the fact that control over my environment is limited. If I am willing to change my opinion when the facts direct me to do so, I eliminate the anxiety that I feel when I am wrong. This is real power. I may not have much control over the externals in my life, but I do have the ability to adapt my thinking in ways that enable me to function better. Over the years, I have discarded many preciously held beliefs that were falsely conceived.
This is a simple process to follow. First, I must be vigilant about acknowledging when a thought is an opinion, and not a fact. From this stems the willingness to fact-check my own beliefs. If I am vigilant about the first step, the second step of abandoning the illogical opinion is much easier because I have not allowed it to seep into my mind to the point where it becomes dogma. It is much easier to not do either of these things, and to descend into the interconnected web of my own false ideas. That is a descent into fear, and if I am living in fear I am not free.