Brothers and sisters: May I never boast of anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
Talk shows, social media, the “like” button, opinion polls—there’s no denying we are living in cult of opinion. Everybody these days has an opinion, whether they have all the information or not. Sometimes opinions are delivered violently—tires get slashed, politicians get things thrown at them, peaceful protests turn ugly. It seems to me it’s time to step back and discern how a Christian is called to manage their opinions.
Opinion, as we have daily proof, is often based on emotion. It is often reactionary. We see a perceived injustice and we react without getting all the facts. I once wrote an angry letter to my bishop, and when I received his humble reply I was deeply ashamed at what I had done, how I had added to his pain and made a distasteful situation worse for him. I learned at his expense that indignation and self-righteousness are not indicators that I am right, or that I should necessarily speak up, at least not without doing my homework and carefully considering my motives.
Scripture is full of admonitions to hold our tongues. Matthew 5:37 says it plainly: “There are too many words. Let your speech be “yes” or “no”, anything more is from the Evil One.” Those are incredibly strong words, ones we would do well to ponder.
Shortly after I had chosen this topic for my newsletter article, two online friends had a discussion on the cult of opinion without knowing the topic of my article. Here is their conversation:
First friend: “The ME focus is coming earlier and earlier. Now we are teaching children how important our OPINION is. Fact is lost in opinion. We are encouraging everyone from an early age to have their own little kingdom, what THEY want. So we have a world of separate, disunified little Kingdoms of ME.”
Second friend: “One of the key problems in our culture—opinion—is I believe cultivating a climate of grievance. Everyone feels entitled and/or cheated depending on the situation. There’s such noise. I find I have to fast from TV and “talking heads” and even conversations now about politics and current events.”
It is quite ironic that I am using a conversational opinion to make my point! Opinion is hard to avoid and even harder to avoid forming in our thoughts! But we need to examine our own thoughts and actions to see if we have joined this cult—whether intentionally or not. Our own opinion can be an idol and it is far better and less painful to smash that idol with our own two hands than to have God do it for us! Then when the idol has been smashed, our previously clouded vision is clear enough to focus on God’s holy Truth.
St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We take every thought captive to obey Christ.” If we try to follow perfectly St. Paul’s example, we will put to death any thought that does not originate in God’s holy Truth. One sure sign that we are not on the right path is that our thoughts or words flow out of negative emotions such as pride, anger, indignation, self-righteousness, etc. Injustice should spur us to compassion and tireless efforts to eradicate it, without the need to label others, or to see ourselves as any better than the worst of all sinners.
As the saying goes, instead of thinking twice before speaking, we often speak twice before thinking. We need to ponder more and speak less. We need to turn off the TV and spend time in contemplation. St. Francis used to say: “It often happens that an invaluable treasure is lost for the sake of a worthless reward, and God who bestowed his gift once will not be prevailed upon to give again so easily.” By spending more time in prayer and contemplation, we are communing with the Source of all Truth. In so doing, we will be less likely to settle for idle talk or pointless speculation.
Certainly we need to express ourselves when defending God’s holy Truth, but without discipline in our speech, we risk falling into the sin of pride. Humility must permeate every word. The words should come through us, from the Holy Spirit, not from us. That way we will be better able to speak the truth in love as scripture exhorts us to do (Ephesians 4:15).
By becoming aware of our thoughts, words, and emotions, we can begin the process of holding every thought captive to Christ, until we are able to say with St. Paul: “May I never boast of anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”