In college I had a good friend named Nate who often stated this quote: "Opinions are like buttholes: everybody's got one and they all stink." This quote has stuck with me as much or more than anything I learned in any classroom.
My heart is with an old friend who is hurting right now. She feels alone. She feels scared. And unfortunately, I think she feels judged. She's in one of the toughest situations of her life and instead of just sorting through the emotions & decisions that she is facing, she is also sifting through an onslaught of opinions about her choices that leave little room to feel supported. What she needs to feel is a level of support that will make her feel confident enough to make the choices that are right for her. What she's getting though is a chorus of "you screwed up again".
Why is it such human nature to so readily give our opinions? Why is it that without thinking, we can open our mouths and think that what we have to say in any given situation is worthwhile just because it popped into our heads for 2 seconds? How is it that we all have the same desire to be loved unconditionally, especially when we're down and yet, when it's our turn to do so for others, we so readily provide judgment and opinion instead?
I think it's time to figure out how to close our mouths & listen. Listen to the ones who are hurting. Refuse the opinions that pop into your mind while they're talking and just listen to what those who are hurting are saying. Most of the time, they're not looking for answers. They're looking for a listening ear, a safe place, ways to build the confidence they need to make the right choices.
When I took education courses we talked a lot about the notion of a "self-fulfilled prophecy." Basically it meant that if a child was told something enough about themselves they started to believe it. Tell kids they can do anything and tell it to them often, they'll approach situations as though there isn't an option but to succeed. Tell kids they won't amount to anything and most likely, they'll live up to that expectation. This idea doesn't stop with children though: it's just plain human nature and I believe this idea applies directly to our reactions to hurting people.
- Shut the person down, tell them what they're doing wrong, don't give them a chance to believe they can make a good choice: they'll begin to believe they're not worthy of sharing, which leads to not feeling worthy of being good and making good choices, which can lead to a "what does it matter anyway?!" mindset that brings about further choices that hurt a person.
- OR...Listen, let them talk, show them love and create an environment in which they believe they can make the best choice for themselves: they'll begin to sense a feeling of self-worth, which leads to feeling worthy of taking the steps to make wise choices, which leads to an overall healthier mindset.
I know in my own life, I've never learned or made a great change because someone told me what to do or directed me on all I was doing wrong. It has always been in the situations where I felt supported enough to feel okay with failing that I was able to rise up to make the best choice. I assume I'm in the majority on this. When people feel loved & supported, they tend to seek out the "advice" we're so eager to give from the get-go at a later point if they truly need it. And even more importantly, when we truly listen to people, we more often than not get the chance to learn that the situation isn't all we measured it up to be at that first point. People are complex and it's rare that there are 2 situations exactly alike. In light of this, many times our "advice" ends up being a slap in the face to what they are dealing with.
Let us choose love. Let us choose grace. And let us choose the humility that our opinions oftentimes aren't worth much more than anything else we're sending down the toilet. ;)