Opinions, reason, and communication
A Christian Science perspective: Humility and respect can raise interactions to a new level.
Opinions, especially rigidly held ones, can get in the way of productive communication. On the other hand, keeping our own opinions open to reason and revision can do much to open up communication and move things forward in a productive direction. That doesn’t mean, however, that anyone should lose one’s bearings, become indecisive, and have no principle to stand up for.
The problem with opinions, though, is that they have no certainty of their own; they are inherently incomplete. They’re built only on what seems true according to one’s own knowledge and judgment. And when one regards his or her opinions as the right ones as opposed to others’ wrong ones, little wiggle room is left for productive discussion. To break the stalemate, something – human pride? – has to give. The place to start is with oneself.
There is a certainty we can latch on to that enables us to feel anchored while at the same time respecting, listening to, and thoughtfully considering the views of others. This certainty is found in the only Mind whose wisdom is always right; that is the divine Mind, or God, the eternal Principle of the universe and man (the generic term for men, women, and children).
As the book of Job in the Bible says of God, “He is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth” (23:13). But God is not an arbitrary judge of human affairs. He is the governor of His own thoughts, or ideas, including each of us as His sons and daughters. We are each the reflection of His wisdom and love.
It helps me to realize that when a human being turns to God for wisdom, God does not say, literally, “Think this way about that situation, or take this particular course of action in dealing with it.” No, the message God imparts to human consciousness is “Remember that you – and everyone else – are my spiritual image and likeness, actually capable only of thoughts and actions that reflect my love and care for everyone.” This gives me an anchor upon which to consider fresh thinking on the subject at hand.
The following statement from the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, has always been a helpful guide for me: “The one Mind, God, contains no mortal opinions” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 399). Accordingly, I endeavor not to form opinions but rather to have revisable viewpoints – open to revision from wisdom on high. It’s a mental stance that goes something like this: “From what I’ve observed, and from the knowledge at my disposal, things look this way, but I know that the wisdom of God is higher than mine. So I’ll keep my thought open to His guidance, which may come directly through prayer, or from what others share of their thoughts on the subject.”
While personal opinions, if not carefully watched, can morph one into being opinionated and therefore less considerate of others’ views, divine wisdom can transform the human mind into a ground for healing. It’s comforting to realize that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17, English Standard Version).
Experience has shown me that when my own heart is fixed in a humble openness to God’s guidance, communication with others is most productive. It’s a quiet acknowledging and praising God, divine Love, as the only real governor of everyone involved. This enables me to curb any tendency to push my opinions or viewpoints and to respectfully listen to what others have to say – while at the same time listening for God’s guidance of my thought. This takes discipline, to be sure, and it’s not always easy to do. And sometimes, regretfully, I forget to do it. But this mental stance is worth cherishing and putting into practice.
Because divine wisdom guides thought in the direction that blesses everyone, it’s always safe to have one’s heart fixed in prayer, instead of in human opinions. We can say with the Psalmist, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). Whether dealing with a personal relationship, working with others toward a productive decision in an organization, or conversing with others about political matters, one person’s openness to God’s guidance can bring the certainty of His healing love into the equation.