The Opinions page. For some, it’s boring. For some, it’s their daily (or weekly) dose of material to get righteously angry at. For some, it’s the place to hear from those unlike them. For others, it’s just a bunch of yelling with no real dialogue.
There’s no easy way around it. Having opinions is a dangerous thing. It may not seem like it in the day-to-day, but each of us are inherently risking something by having opinions.
For a big portion of my life, my eyes would never get near the opinions page. Not because I had anything against its content or people’s opinions — but because I greatly enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t going to, nor did I find it beneficial, to let these words shape or sway me. I had a few things I considered foundational — and everything else I could go either way on (as long as I wasn’t making enemies in the process).
Foolishly, I viewed this as some sort of wisdom. As if I was somehow engaging in these conversations in a better way than others, when in reality, I wasn’t engaging at all.
Now, this isn’t to say I commend people who dive into contentious topics that could potentially damage others for the sake of doing so. There’s always going to be a time and a place to engage in conversations regarding the topics that fill this, and many other publications’, opinions pages. Political conversations, for example, are some of the most common. Any person remotely aware of the spaces around them can quickly see where that can get damaging.
But, that doesn’t mean we just avoid them.
“It is certainly true that shying away from political engagement is unacceptable,” Jakob Miller, associate professor of American Politics, said. “Given that much political discourse focuses on attacks and defeating opponents rather than persuading them, emulating the world is also problematic.”
Miller gave a few tips on how to engage these conversations in a healthy manner, including always remembering the person on the other side isn’t an opponent, but rather a human being loved by God.
That remains true when reading an opinion column you particularly disagree with, or when writing one’s own opinion column.
He also highlighted the importance of recognizing that, while there are some things we should never budge on, it’s important to enter the world of opinion with humility.
“Remember our fallen, imperfect nature,” Miller said. “Murder is wrong, but will my law enforcement policy or a different one be the best at preventing murders? That’s a question of fact, and there’s every chance that I’m wrong. It is often most honest to conclude ‘I don’t know,’ or, ‘It’s complicated.’”
I think of Proverbs 18:2.
“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.”
No matter where our hearts are at, if we enter a dialogue or write an opinions column with the intention of forcing others to see our way of thinking, we are no better than the fool that is written about in Proverbs. Rather, one must seek understanding.
Some take that, however, as a call to dis-engage. To retreat from the topics of conversation that dominate our current culture. However, that’s only a half-measure.
“In an address to Senior Sem. recently I said a life that tried to ignore politics was mutilated, like a life that tried to avoid art or friendship. I stand by that,” Miller said. “When engaging in conversation, ask if you are seeking the good of the other person. If not — if you are seeking the satisfaction of winning or the venting of anger or the pleasure of being agreed with — then you need to reflect on your own motives.”
Which comes to the ultimate point, and the only one that really matters when considering the best ways to engage in these conversations. Flip through the Bible. Any number of verses are available to help guide us. Love, caring for others, humility — the list goes on. But it’s clear within Scripture that the person on the other side, no matter how difficult, should be treated in this way.
So, my plea to the readers of The Echo is simple:don’t flip through the opinions page.
Don’t stop reading after you encounter someone’s opinion that doesn’t sit well with you. Even if it’s hard, try envisioning the other person’s perspective and attempt to engage with them in a healthy way. And if you feel so impassioned, consider writing your own opinion piece.