Opinions Are Scary

We live in a society that has an official phobia for just about anything, including the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth (it’s arachibutyrophobia, in case you’re wondering). Yet when we try to think of The Scariest Things, most of us think of things like spiders, clowns, snakes, abandonment, or heights. There is another one, however, that I think takes home the title of Scariest Thing Ever:

Opinions.

Having an opinion seems easy most of the time. It’s as simple as saying, “I like peanut butter” or “I like cats” or “I think most shades of green end up looking like something disgusting.” We express opinions every day, whether we are conscious of it or not. It’s easy, right?

But what about when it’s a really important opinion? What about when there are people passionate about both sides of an opinion? What happens if you express a minority opinion?

The internet has made the act of Having an Opinion sometimes dangerous. Stand by an unpopular opinion in your workplace an you can endanger your career. Express an opinion about religion (for or against it) and people will call into question your intelligence. Express an opinion about abortions and you will be dubbed either a baby killer or a misogynist. Express an opinion about gender equality (for or against it) and you will get death threats.

It’s so much safer to just keep your opinions to yourself and go with the flow. Don’t rock the boat. Work with the system, don’t fight it.

Recently I have found myself facing this challenge frequently: Stay quiet and remain safe and secure, or stand up with my opinion and risk everything.

It’s scary.

My body tenses up, my breath gets short, my stomach twists into shapes in which stomachs were never meant to be. My body senses danger and my brain tells me to run, run as far away from this scary, dangerous thing as I can.

But if I keep silent, who will say the hard things?

Who will say the new things?

If I keep silent, the only voice heard will be that of someone else, someone expressing an opinion I am opposed to in my very core. If I keep silent, we will keep doing things the way they have always been done, and those ways do not necessarily work anymore.

There is a scene in the movie The American President where one of the President’s staff members, Lewis, criticizes his handling of a particular issue. The President hoped that if he ignored it, the issue would go away. His opponent in the upcoming election, Bob Rumson, however, brought the issue up as often as he could. Finally Lewis has enough.

President: Look, if the people want to listen to-
Lewis: They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it, they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water they’ll drink the sand.

My opinions definitely do not bear the weight of someone like the President of the United States. But I like to think that I have valuable things to contribute.

And if I keep silent, people will have no choice but to drink the sand.

Five Minute Friday: Finish

Some days I sit down to write and the words pour forth in a deluge of meaning. But other days, days like today, I sit here and feel all the emotions raging within me, and when the emotions scream I can tap into the spring of words. But then an emptiness settles over my emotions and I feel nothing, nothing at all, and then the words are harder to find than a puddle in the desert. My thoughts fizzle away like just-exploded fireworks: I can remember their beauty and smell them in the air, but I can no longer see them.

When I tried to write about today’s prompt, finish, I had so many thoughts I couldn’t pick which direction to go. But because so many of those thoughts are linked to emotions so strong they can set off a panic attack, I ended up finding myself in the situation where I can write about none of them. I like to finish projects. However, I cannot abide change, and finishing one thing means there must be a change to a new thing.

I have nothing else to say, for the words have disappeared again.

This Is For You

This is for all of you out there who have ever verbally answered the question, “How are you?” with a flat “fine-how-are-you?” but inwardly said, “I’m not fine. I’m not even close to fine. In fact, my world is falling apart. But you don’t care, do you?”

This is for the the men who have been disrespected and belittled by women, but didn’t say anything about it for fear of worse ridicule or embarressment.

This is for the women who have been derided for staying home to raise their children. This is also for the women who were derided for not staying home to raise their children.

This is for people who have felt the icy rope of despair wrap itself round and round their necks until the only thought left in their heads is wanting to die. Because surely death is better than this hell you’re currently living in.

This is for the women and the men who battle daily with eating disorders. Because men have eating disorders too, but are less likely to get help for it.

This is for the teenagers who feel cut off from the world, isolated in an ocean of raging emotions that adults recurse to validate. Because those emotions are just as real as adult emotions, and therefore just as valid. Because your existence is is precious, and I promise life gets better. These are not the “best years of your life.” No, my friend, your life is just getting started.

This is for the weary, stressed out person in line at the grocery store. Because you haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in longer than you can remember, and that pile of coupons is all that stands between your groceries and your electricity being shut off. Because no matter what you do, you always seem to fail.

This is for you.

Someday I hope you can talk about it. Someday I hope you will be able to see the arms of Christ stretching wide to encircle you – you with all your hurts and scars and baggage from the years of pain and silence.  Someday I hope the words pour forth. May they break down the dam inside you, spilling out in a flood of messy release. Let them spill from your mouth and from your fingers onto journal pages, laptops, cellphones, wherever they can reach. And let the flood of words begin to fill in the potholes and ditches of your wounded soul. Let them fill until you can no longer see the ground, but instead see nothing but water, a serene and beautiful lake. And let there be peace within you.

From the mouth comes both hurt and healing, and someday I hope the very same mouths that have hurt you will speak healing words over you. Words of love, forgiveness, acceptance, freedom, peace. Words of reconciliation.

But even if they never do, I hope that someday you will find someone who will. Because no one should have to go through life carrying that much hurt and pain.

Sometimes it’s hard to talk about the things that are the most important to us, that have caused us the most pain. I get that. But if you’re ever ready and you have no one to tell it to, know that I am here. I will listen to you, cry with you, whatever you need. And I will speak life over you. Because everyone deserves a full life.

Even you.