I’m glad I wasn’t standing nearby when the comment was made.
I heard about it later, and the Mama Bear in me got pretty riled up.
You see, my son was telling a friend a church that he’d recently joined the military, and our friend didn’t seem thrilled. When my son mentioned that his accomplishments would land him a nice paycheck, the sharp reply “there is more to life than money” only served to make my son and my husband (and later me) disinterested in pursuing that friendship any longer.
That same day, I heard two other people discussing what a current high school senior ought to do when she graduates. I could see on her face that she wasn’t really listening, and honestly, I had gotten the impression that she’d already put a lot thought into her future. I found myself trying to interject and change the subject.
These situations got me thinking about how often we voluntarily offer our opinions to others.
Why do we feel so inspired to tell others what they ought to say or do?
Looking back on myself, as a firstborn and bossy sister, I’ve had a lot of opinions to share with my siblings when we were growing up – I knew just how they ought to think and behave. I’ve had opinions about how other moms should raise their kids. I’ve had opinions about how others should drive, or, not drive. I’ve had opinions about which churches and pastors are ‘getting it right’. I’ve had opinions about how people should dress, what entertainment they should be involved in, where they should spend their money.
But honestly, what have all my opinions gotten me? What good has come from them?
Once I heard a teacher discuss how she stopped giving her opinion unless people specifically asked for it. Her words made me pause. What motivated me to express my thoughts to others when they didn’t ask for my opinion? Was I really trying to help? Or was I just trying to be bossy, because I knew better than them what they ought to do?
What’s so wrong with making suggestions to others?
Over time, as I tried to pay attention to what motivated me to tell others what to do, I discovered that most of the time, giving my opinion ended badly. It creates tension and negative feelings between the parties involved. I just never really noticed it before.
3 Reasons why voluntarily offering an opinion typically creates division:
- We tend to come across with the attitude that we know best. We may not intend to tell them that they don’t know what they’re doing, but that’s typically the subliminal message. Even if we are older, wiser, more experienced at something, people don’t want to be told, whether directly or indirectly, that they’re dumb.
- We try to convince the other person instead of offering a simple suggestion. There’s a difference between giving them something to ponder, and trying to force them to do it your way. Building an argument and debating your point typically won’t convert them to see your side.
- We speak from a place of pride and judgement. We may have legitimate reasons for why a person ought to do something, but when we believe they are wrong and we are right, our arrogance is a turn-off. Bold and brass conversation is never received well.
Perhaps we’d see a lot more unity in our families and churches if we would stop trying to tell people what we think they ought to do.
Are there times when giving our opinion is important, necessary or helpful? Yes! I’ll talk more about that next week.