Opinions, prejudices and bad habits…

May 17, 2019

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 arrogantyoung 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 girl with nose chainbecome 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 Controllingopinions 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 visualizingopinions, 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.


Choose to be kind this week…

March 5, 2018

“Choose to be kind over being right every time.”  (Richard Carlson)

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write about the Mr. Know-it-all syndrome that some people exhibit. Unfortunately, that hits too close to home for me, as my wife often calls me out on.  I really have to work on not jumping in to arrogantcorrect some factual error (at least in my opinion) that I think may have just been made in something that is said. Sometimes (probably most of the time) it is better to just let things go, even if you know that what was just said is not correct. Be kind this week.

One way to look at things is to just say to yourself that what was just said is what the person who said it believes and messing around with beliefs is usually a losing cause. Perhaps it was their opinion about something; and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It is surely a mistake to jump in with a correction on anything that may be political or religious, since those are two areas that are very personal and difficult to argue. Just say to yourself, “I don’t agree with your opinion or judge thingsview on things, but that’s OK.” Don’t say that out loud, unless you are just spoiling for an argument. Be kind this week.

Rather than trying to assert the “right” (from your perspective) opinion into the conversation, be kind and try to understand the other person’s point of view or at least honor his/her right to that opinion. One can be kind without being condescending and one can be kind without surrendering their own position or opinion. Be kind this week.

Another good trait to develop is being able to admit when you were, in fact, wrong on some opinion or “fact” that you held a strong belief about. Sometimes additional information or event prove the position that you held to be wrong and rather than cling stubbornstubbornly to a disproved position, it is much better to admit your mistake and move on by embracing the new “truth” of the matter. Perhaps now you will be better able to understand the position that others held all along, which you considered “wrong-headed” until now. You will probably also realize that, had you chosen to be kind rather than right in your position, you would now be in a much better position. Be kind this week.

So, choose to greet others ready to accept and understand, rather than ready to correct. Try to understand things from their perspective rather than forcing them to see it from disagreement2yours.  Maybe there is no right and wrong, just two wrongs that will get you nowhere. Life does not have to become as dysfunctional as our current political system, where everything is judged using a far-right or far-left litmus test. There is a win-win middle ground were different opinions and perspectives may be valued for providing diversity to the conversation and where the truth is somewhere in the middle or, perhaps, somewhere else altogether. Be kind this week.

When you hear someone say something that you would normally try to correct; rather than blurt out, “You’re wrong”, try “How interesting of you to say that”, or perhaps reply, “I hadn’t thought of that view of things.” You may be pleasantly surprised at the conversations that follow. Be kind this week.


Maybe it is my business…

December 27, 2016

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” (Wayne Dyer) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently.

I liked that little saying when I first saw it, but couldn’t quite figure out why. Then it hit me that what other people think of me is my business to an extent. It is their business how they react to me and what opinions they form; however it is my business as to how I conduct myself to cause those opinions to be formed. None of us probably wants to be thought of as dishonest or cruel or insensitive or uncaring; yet many times we do things that cause those opinions of us to be formed.

Most people really do care what others think of them, even if they say the opposite. We all crave some level of acceptance by others. Many strive for understanding by others, perhaps of a different lifestyle. Some just wish for acceptance (see my post – Just Accept Me). Some may wish for the love of others or perhaps pone in particular. All of those things are dependent upon what those others think of you.

jerkRecently I read a question in in one of those newspaper advice columns concerning how to get people to accept and form new opinions about someone who apparently acted like quite a “jerk” when he was younger, but who has now matured and is a better person. Many people face that same dilemma in life, especially young men who really did act like jerks when they were younger. Some people don’t seem to be able to give them the benefit of the doubt, once they matured enough to begin acting in a more acceptable manner. Most grow out of that phase. Unfortunately some of those young men get themselves trapped into feeling like that have to continue to act like jerks, because that’s what people expect of them.

Much of what small children do that we might describe as bad behavior is actually a cry for attention. If they can’t get the reaction that they want from just saying, “Mommy, look at me”, they cause a ruckus because they have figure out that this brings them the attention from mommy that they craved. Many adults use the same techniques. I’ve always thoughtmotorcycle that there is no real reason for motorcycles to have loud, un-muffled and annoying exhausts other than the riders need to attract attention to themselves. They are saying, “Mommy, look at me” by being as noisy as they can be. They never outgrew the need to be a jerk to get attention.

Now, I don’t need to make it my business to go around asking everyone that I interact with, “What do you think of me?”; however, I do need to be aware that everything that I do and say may contribute to the formation of an opinion about me. If I keep that in mind and perhaps pause before I do something or say something that is insensitive or cruel, maybe they won’t think I’m a jerk. And maybe if I start thinking about those things before I do or say them I will actually grow up and not be that jerk that I may have been.  Maybe the advice in the Bible about treating others as I would like to be treated and loving my neighbor as I love myself was right after all.

boredSo, maybe Dyer was wrong. Maybe what other people think of me is my business. It certainly is within my control. If I don’t want to be considered to be shifty and dishonest, then I can decide not act in a manner that would lead to that conclusion. If I want to be considered to be dependable and a good friend, then I can be there when needed and be the good listener that is oft needed in times of crisis. If I want to be accepted, I have to accept others, too.  If I want to be someone who is loved, I need to give love. What others think of me are opinions that reflect the behaviors from me that they see. And that is my business.

Have a great week before the New Year and maybe make one of your resolutions for the New Year to be more aware of the things that you do and say that form the basis of the opinions that others have of you. It’s never too late to stop being seen as a jerk. And that is your business.


Have the courage to listen and to speak and don’t be a dead fish…

October 20, 2015

“Some people should use a glue stick instead of Chapstick.”  (Pinterest) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Today’s little quote is somewhat judgmental about others, but makes a good point about shutting up and talking-2listening. Sometimes the best thing that we can do is to listen, to hear out the other person, before we jump in with our own comments or thoughts. One of the hardest human traits to break, or at least control, is the tendency to be so wrapped up in your own thoughts and opinions that you don’t really listen to the opinions of others. We just can’t wait to get their own thoughts into the conversation and, in so doing; we ignore or miss the thoughts of the other parties. Does that ever happen to you? I know someone like that and after she starts talking to express her thoughts, she often stops and says, “No wait. What did you say?” It’s as if her brain is on a 10-20 second delay about what you said somehow and it only catches up after she has started talking.

I like the way Winston Churchill put it – “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

I think what Churchill was getting at is the courage it takes to really listen and understand the other person’s point of view on things. Taking the time to listen might also better equip you to make a more appropriate response or,listening even better, to realize that sometimes no response is really needed. Is it more courageous to lash back at someone who has just made a hateful remark towards you, or to quietly say “I’m sorry you feel that way”, and go on with life? What do you gain by lashing back at that person? Maybe both you and they need some more time to think about the situation before anything else is said.

Sometimes, when you sit down and listen, you realize that the person making hateful or racist or homophobic remarks has no basis other than hate or fear for making the remarks, even if they try to mask them in the context of religious beliefs. Once you recognize the underlying ugliness for what it really is, your anger may quickly turn to pity. If you realize opinionatedthat something in that person’s life has happened to bring them to this hateful state, you might think, “How terrible it must be to be filled with such angry and hate; I’ll pray for you.” You’ll have to be the judge on whether saying that out loud would help or just further inflame the situation. Either way, say the prayer for them.

Many times, especially early in life, incidents may happen when you are among those whom you consider to be your friends. It is during those times that the advice of J. K. Rowling comes to mind –

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

It is not only the brave thing to do, but the right thing to do to stand up and say something, even to your friends, if what is happening is wrong. That is especially true in situations of bullying in school or invitations to do things thatfriends at school you know just aren’t right. It is true later in life when you decline to be drawn into gossip about others or to join in hateful talk or actions. There is great peer pressure at all ages to join others who may be for or against certain things or people or who are doing things that are wrong. The old phrase “go along to get along” was invented to describe the easy (cowardly) way to deal with those situations.

Many times the topic of conversation or of the actions at hand are not something that you may not have formed an opinion about one way or the other. Rather than having the courage to sit and listen and then make an informed decision; you just go along with the crowd, sometimes as much as anything on a dare. It’s as if someone has said to you, “What, are you afraid to cast the first stone?” So you go along with the crowd, even if it is going in an uncomfortable direction. At times like that, perhaps the advice of Jim Hightower will help –

“The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”

dead fishHave a great day and have the courage of your convictions. If you don’t have convictions in any situation, have the courage to admit that to yourself and listen and think before you act or join in the action. Don’t be a dead fish going with the flow.