“Well, that’s just your opinion!”
The words made me bristle.
I’d been chatting with a relative about a broken relationship in our extended family – a delicate topic to be sure. But it had come up because the effects of that broken relationship were now impacting our personal lives too, and decisions needed to be made.
The conversation had started out light, mostly with me asking questions, like “How are you feeling about this?”
But as the conversation developed, I had that growing urge to just speak my mind. I had strong opinions about what I felt was the source of the problem in this relationship as well as how it should be remedied. I am a pastor’s wife. I’ve been doing soul-care mentoring with people for years. I’d seen this kind of situation before and felt justified in what I thought was the best way forward for everyone involved in our current familial situation. Perhaps that’s what convinced me to voice my opinion on how I actually felt about the two people involved in the broken relationship in our family.
Let me just say, my opinion wasn’t received well.
The look on my relative’s face showed I had deeply offended her. She immediately challenged my ideas and laid out a completely different course of action that, in her opinion, was the only right way forward.
So, there we were — at an impasse. Both of us with strong feelings about a relationship that was impacting us personally, and both with a strong desire for very different outcomes.
What was I to do? I’ve learned over the years that “going down with the ship,” so to speak, by hanging onto my opinions for dear life is always a recipe for burning bridges.
I can be right, or I can keep my relationship. Not always both.
I didn’t want to fully recant my ideas. After all, I pride myself on thinking things through and formulating opinions thoughtfully and with a bit of research (or, let’s be honest, with at least some Googling!). But I didn’t want to hurt my relative and put our relationship in jeopardy either.
So, I swallowed my pride and said, “I hear what you’re saying. Tell me more of what that would look like.”
The Bible reminds us to put people’s hearts above our own opinions. Proverbs 21:2 says, “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart” (NIV).
I interpret this passage in two ways. First, we must express our opinions with humility. Even if we are 100% right in our thinking, if we lord our opinion over others, what good does that do? Second, we must be willing to adapt our strong opinions. There is always the possibility that we’re missing some part of the bigger picture. Or that our opinion is just one way forward, and perhaps not the best for someone else. There’s also the possibility that our opinion is preventing us from truly hearing another person’s heart.
To emulate the wisdom of God in our thinking is to have strong, yet adaptable opinions.
I’m not referring to dogma or the theological tenets of our faith. I’m talking about the realm of relationships and solutions for fights, broken hearts, making new friends, and marital growth, among other things. There’s a lot of gray when it comes to relationships. What worked for us might not work best for someone else. Just because we have certain knowledge (theologically, as a counselor, or as someone well-traveled, for example), doesn’t mean our knowledge applies to everyone’s situation.
To exercise wisdom is to develop the ability to learn and genuinely appreciate different perspectives.
Too often, our strong opinions result in polarization and broken relationships. But we can change that.
We can make 2024 the year of strong yet adaptable opinions.
We can make the new year a season of learning and growth; a season of communicating our ideas, while also meeting other people’s opinions halfway.
We can prioritize people’s hearts and love others the way God loves them.
We still might disagree at the end of the day, but we can do so while preserving the relationship and that’s key.
Who’s with me?
(in)courage wrote a whole book about navigating challenging relationships! Find out what it looks like to delight in differences and love through disagreements in Come Sit with Me.