I am sure you’ve had a lot of experiences where your opinion about something was completely different to other people’s point of view. It can be quite frustrating to have someone argue against what you know to be true. Whenever someone disagrees with your point of view you are quite certain that that person either does not understand, is stupid, not as well informed as you are, did not have the experience you’ve had or that he knows that you are right, but does not want to admit it. All these justifications – and feel free to add your own – are the proof that your point of view is correct and that other people are at least wrong if not downright delusional. So how is it possible that other people do not see something that is so obvious to you? How can they be so shortsighted or illogical, lack compassion or love, be so inconsiderate and cruel or whatever the particular case may be? Sometimes you find yourself wondering whether the whole world has gone mad or if it is just you.
In order to be able to explain this phenomenon we must first distinguish what we are talking about, i.e. , point of view and opinion. Definitions from the dictionary may be of assistance here:
a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge : I’m writing to voice my opinion on an issue of great importance | that, in my opinion, is dead right.
• the beliefs or views of a large number or majority of people about a particular thing : the changing climate of opinion.
• ( opinion of) an estimation of the quality or worth of someone or something : I had a higher opinion of myself than I deserved.
• a formal statement of advice by an expert on a professional matter : seeking a second opinion from a specialist.
• Law a formal statement of reasons for a judgment given.
• Law a lawyer’s advice on the merits of a case.
be of the opinion that believe or maintain that : economists are of the opinion that the economy could contract.
a matter of opinion something not capable of being proven either way.
ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin opinio(n-), from the stem of opinari ‘think, believe.’
THE RIGHT WORD
When you give your opinion on something, you offer a conclusion or a judgment that, although it may be open to question, seems true or probable to you at the time (: she was known for her strong opinions on women in the workplace).
A view is an opinion that is affected by your personal feelings or biases (: his views on life were essentially optimistic), while a sentiment is a more or less settled opinion that may still be colored by emotion (: her sentiments on aging were shared by many other women approaching fifty).
A belief differs from an opinion or a view in that it is not necessarily the creation of the person who holds it; the emphasis here is on the mental acceptance of an idea, a proposition, or a doctrine and on the assurance of its truth (: religious beliefs; his belief in the power of the body to heal itself).
A conviction is a firmly held and unshakable belief whose truth is not doubted (: she could not be swayed in her convictions), while a persuasion (in this sense) is a strong belief that is unshakable because you want to believe that it’s true rather than because there is evidence proving it so (: she was of the persuasion that he was innocent).
As you might have noticed, nowhere in these definitions can you find that your opinion equals the truth. I heard so many people say, “It’s my truth”, and they leave it at that, as if their truth somehow becomes true and just as valid as The Truth itself. Of course they find many reasons and other opinions that attempt to justify their opinion, but the bottom line is that all these reasons and excuses are just plausible stories that often prove nothing. In fact it still boils down to no more that mere overrated opinion. So how do you distinguish between truth and opinion? Let’s start by recognizing that we rarely come face to face with the truth. Objective truth is a very elusive concept, and it is a concept because “the truth” does not exist in the material world. It is always and only an INTERPRETATION and MEANING that we give to any particular event. Events have no meanings and interpretations imbedded in them, they are not an integral part of ANY event. Interpretations and meanings are fully and wholly generated by human minds and do not exist in nature per se. (Of course this is only my opinion.) Nevertheless, like anything else, our opinions serve a very useful role in our lives and like any tool they can be used or abused. Now, how do you know if your opinions serve you or not? This is easier said than done, but every bit worth practicing. Self-awareness is the first step. Being conscious and able to perceive your behavior when you are adamantly asserting that your opinion is the correct one may make you aware of the futility of your approach to the situation and open your eyes to other possibilities and more efficient and effective ways to deal with the situation. Understanding that the interpretations and beliefs we hold so dear come from our past experiences and have become part of our personalities and which we cannot lightly dismiss, may help us recognize that other people’s opinions/truths as well as our own are just different points of view. A point of view is just that: a point from which we view the world. Problems arise when we neglect to recognize that from the point we see the world or an issue, has one major shortcoming: we do not see the very point from which we make our observation because we are standing on it. Recognizing that there can be more than one point from which the world can be observed and thus be seen in a different perspective will allow us to be more flexible in our relationships with others.
In conclusion, remember that many truths throughout history were debunked and nowadays make no sense even to a child but in the past were held as irrefutable truths. Think of the earth as being the flat center of the universe. How about all the gods of ancient Greece and Rome? Newton’s physics is not the final word on our universe any more either. At a more mundane level, you may find that whatever you thought to be true about your parents, your partner or your children may not be so, for the time being anyway.
From all this you may be tempted to come to the conclusion that there are many truths and that they all may be equal. That certainly is not so. Some truths are more equal than others or some opinions are better than others. Certain truths may be more true to some than to others depending on the context because context in which opinions and “truths” arise is decisive. We’ll talk about context some other time. Stay tuned.