“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding” -Bill Bullard.
I’ve been dry lately. Few words have formed in my heart to even offer an intelligible prayer let alone to write a blog. Thankfully the Holy Spirit has offered many prayers on my behalf and God has continued to speak to my heart, though limited phrases have made their way to my lips. There are days that I have felt crushed and days that I have felt angry and days that I have felt totally helpless. The worst days are the ones where I have felt all of those things in tandem. Yes, despite what we have all been led to believe, pastor’s wives feel all of these things too and that’s my confession. Sometimes grace is the last thing I have to put on display. “Graceless” has been my defining characteristic in the recent days and weeks that have past and yet his grace has continued to abound and be sufficient.
I have formed a great deal of opinions in my lifetime and in times of struggle the forming of an opinion is about the easiest thing that can be accomplished. So here I am; graceless, helpless, angry, dry, crushed and opinionated. That’s a recipe for a lot of disaster and a lot of hurt. I have always had so much empathy that at times I consider it a curse. I have never had to struggle to know how to put on the shoes of someone else and walk around in their pain. I have rarely had to struggle to know whether or not someone is genuine or full of _____ (insert whatever word you choose). Sometimes it feels like too much! I have learned that the quickest way to kill empathy and the insight that it brings is to form and lean on my own opinions.
Opinions are everywhere and everyone has one about almost everything. An opinion is nothing more than a hypothesis based on limited knowledge. They are the starting point for further investigation. Unfortunately, many of us stop with the hypothesis because it’s easiest. It makes us the expert and we don’t have to answer to others for how or why we formed what we are thinking. Subjectivity is too fluid for anyone to argue against and so we find a great amount of comfort there. Opinions are something we own and they make us feel untouchable by others. Left to themselves, they are a dangerous form of knowledge.
I was talking with a sweet sister in Christ who has been through a lot. She was telling me how hard it is to face brothers and sisters in the church who have formed opinions that aren’t based in truth. To look them in the eye and know that they have developed a belief system about her without communicating with her is agonizing. With someone’s opinion, their story about you has been written in their mind and what that story contains is rooted in their speculations. That’s a tough burden to shoulder if you’re on the receiving end of those stories and the glances, whispers and judgments that follow. It’s even weightier when those opinions begin to spread from person to person.
She asked me how she is to change the opinions of others. The truth is, she’s not. It’s not her responsibility. Of course we can reach out to individuals, we can tell our story and share our heart but at the end of the day, opinions are impenetrable unless the owner chooses to lay those down for the sake of truth which requires a great deal of vulnerability and humility. Our job is to know the pain that has been caused by such narrow minded behavior and to make the choice based on that knowledge to be the change for others that we wish others would have been for us. This is the only way we can move forward and the only way growth can happen. It’s contingent upon our response, not their opinion. This leaves little power in the hands of the opinionated.
People are regularly passing around their opinions about me. Many times these opinions are untrue and usually communicated in unkind ways. The temptation is to be angry but there is no kingdom work found in that response.
“Peace, bring it all to peace. The storm surrounding me, let it break at your name. Still, call the sea to still. The rage in me to still. Every wave, at your name.”
This prayer has washed over me and I know there isn’t a single person that doesn’t need this to wash over them.
May we walk forward in the highest form of understanding and human knowledge. That which seeks to know and be known by others for the sake of edification and truth rooted in the gospel for the sake of God’s glory.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1.