From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this bit of sage advice – “We accumulate our opinions at an age when our understanding is at its weakest.” (G.C Lichtenberg).
I took the liberty to add prejudices and bad habits to the list in my title for this post. It is unfortunate that so many young people are exposed to, and influenced by, others to form those opinions, prejudices and habits before they have developed the intellectual capability to make decisions on their own. The recent case of the teenager who decided to go against the wishes of his mother and be vaccinated is an example. His mother’s ill-considered notions that vaccines are bad for children put him at risk and he eventually developed the intellectual capability to see that for himself and decide on a different course of action.
Unfortunately, many never seem to re-look at or rethink things that influenced them at a young age to become opinionated or prejudiced about certain things and people. They just continue throughout their lives to jump to conclusions about people or events that are driven by unsupported opinions or prejudices. Some look back at a lifetime of misconceptions with regret when they get older. They finally see how fear or mistrust that was fueled by prejudices held them back from meeting or knowing some really great people with whom they crossed paths in life. They see missed opportunities for friendships or even relationships. There is a melancholy sadness about finally realizing how one’s own ignorance or misconceptions have dulled what could have been a much richer life.
Perhaps you have been living with bad opinions, habits and prejudices and may not even realize it. Take the time to stop and ask yourself a few questions. When I encounter people who are different from me, do I have a reflexive response to draw away or become concerned and fearful? Why? What is it about their appearance or actions that I find threatening or distasteful? Why? Do I avoid going to certain places or events because I fear encountering “different” people? Why? Do I immediately become “on guard” when encountering people of a certain color or who are dresses a certain way. Does seeing a person with blue or pink hair immediately bring to mind something bad about them? Why? Do I really have an opinion of my own about events or news that I hear or do I immediately call to mind something that I was told by someone else?
Once you stop to think about what drives you to have reactions to people or events you can begin to see which of those reactions are actually yours and which might just be opinions or prejudices that were “planted” in you by others. That is the first step towards both understanding and towards formulating your own opinions. It is a major step towards taking back control of your life. You can’t do it all at once. Perhaps take the time at the beginning of each week to reexamine a habit or opinion or prejudice that you have fallen into and resolve to either prove or debunk the basis for it. The young man who decided to be vaccinated did a lot of research on the subject and concluded that his mother was wrong in her opinion against vaccines.
There are many things in your life – opinions, fears, prejudices and bad habits – that will not withstand intellectual scrutiny. See if you can be debunk one of those in your life each week and things will become much more pleasant for you. You can still have opinions, but they will now be informed opinions. You may still have habits, but make them good habits. There is no reason to still have prejudices. Thinking about, and understanding these things in life, will shed light on the dark corners of your mind and drive out the bad things that lurk there. Understanding is the antithesis of the ignorance that drives those behaviors.