We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and even if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. -- John Stuart Mill
Having lunch with a group of my “brothers” often opens my eyes to connection and wisdom. By brothers, I mean men whom I know and trust deeply. They often tell incredible stories of their lives or pose inscrutable questions, which I love. They listen to mine.
At lunch last Saturday, one of my brothers from The Mankind Project asked this question: “Do you respect my right to my opinion, or do you respect my opinion even if it is opposed to your truth? For example, let’s pose a hypothetical opinion: All <insert the name of a group of people> should be killed. Do you respect that?”
The awakening man honors another person’s right to have an opinion. He does not attack nor discount the person. In our culture, we allow people to voice their opinions within the bounds of law. For instance, our laws prescribe against speech designed to inflame violence against our democracy.
The awakening man is open to changing his ideas and concepts. To cement our current thinking into unyielding structures creates resistance, defeats transformation, and puts us back to sleep. All revelation comes through change and all change comes through revelation.
The awakening man respects the absolute existence of an opinion. He believes in the affirmation from the Desiderata, “…no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” This leads him to understand that every opinion, every idea he is exposed to, is part of his own unfolding whether he agrees with it or not. The unfolding of an opinion may be for a greater purpose, or it may exist simply to further the evolution of consciousness, bring a lesson, or guide one to deeper contemplation. From this point of view, he honors and respects the existence of the opinion. He uses his mind and heart to understand the meaning of it in his life.
If he does not respect the idea, disagrees with it, or has a gut reaction against it, he can choose to act against it. He may choose to quash it or campaign against it. Of course, he also has the option of taking no action, allowing the idea to remain fallow until it germinates in his life and calls him to action. However, he addresses any shadows of apathy or passivity in his life. This is part of his awakening.
On the highest plane, the awakening man grows in consciousness to address the questions, “What if there is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’? What if things just exist, and it is up to us to learn and grow from them without judgment?” That is a topic for a future post!
In my theoretical discussion with my friend, it is clear to me that I respect his right to have his opinion. I also respect the existential existence of his opinion. It was useful to me because it allowed my mind to sort out what respect means. I actually do not hold a firm opinion on the topic he brought up (ask me why). Nevertheless, I know that one of my lessons from this dialogue is to become more aware of my passivity and “whatever” attitude!
How do you respond when someone voices an opinion you oppose? Do you enter into preemptive judgment? Do you browbeat the other person with your own ideas? How do you open up to the dialogue, messages, and lessons from others?