And it was wonderful to be there.
I believe in free speech and, like you, I’d defend someone’s right to speak freely even if what they say is contrary to my beliefs. But I fear that sometimes, in this great land of ours, we have taken “free speech” to an extreme place, where people—can you imagine!?!—share opinions without knowledge.
It might be best to just stay above the fray.
Here’s what I know:
I can never win an argument on Facebook.
And yet, people continue to try by posting links, espousing half arguments, quoting other people whose lack of knowledge rivals their own, and forwarding meaningless celebrity rants.
Take the recent emotionally charged debate over the legal decision in Florida where, sadly, a life was lost.
No matter which way the verdict had gone, here’s what I do know about that case:
I wasn’t there that dark night. Were you?
I wasn’t on the jury. Were you?
I know nothing of Florida law. Do you?
The truth is, I know little to nothing about a whole bunch of things.
While in the Baltimore airport in early 2010, a couple of business gents sitting nearby were debating the proposed “ObamaCare” law. I kept my nose in my newspaper. After a while, one turned to me and said, “What’s your opinion?”
“Me? Oh, really, I don’t know anything about the field of healthcare. In fact, the whole matter confuses me on every level.”
Then his friend said, “But you must have an opinion, right?”
So I responded with, “Well, my input would be that health care in this country can certainly be improved, but, as a general rule, I’d rather not have our federal government get any bigger. Beyond that, I don’t know what the answer is.”
And that’s all I said. Because that’s all I knew.
They pondered my limited comment for a moment, nodded thoughtfully, and then went on to debate the upcoming Super Bowl.
I love this line, often attributed to Mark Twain:
It is far better to remain silent and be thought a fool
than to speak and remove all doubt.
Now that is something that should be posted on every single form of social media!
Recently, my good friend and trusted adviser, CPA Bob Feis, was visiting Karen and me in our home when I expressed frustration over not understanding more about “wills and trusts.” In response, he spoke kindly, “It’s not your expertise, John. You’re an expert in other areas.”
And I thought, Yeah, I guess I am considered an expert by some people, and I don’t have to be an expert in all things.
In fact, I cannot be.
Many times in my life I’ve opened my mouth and removed all doubt of my ignorance. In Parenting the QBQ Way, Karen writes, “John’s never had an opinion he didn’t share out loud!”
It’s true. If I’m not careful, I’ll give unsolicited counsel before asking enough questions. But, in my efforts to practice personal accountability in all areas of my life, I’m more often “remaining silent” when I don’t have anything informed to say.
And there are many benefits of doing so:
- Less stress and “emotional turmoil”
- Additional energy
- Better use of my finite time
- Increased focus on the right things
- Greater joy
- More credibility when I do speak
And, I simply look wiser. (The gray hair helps, too.)
Above the fray. When my opinions are not rooted in knowledge, facts, or first-hand experience, that’s where I want to live. It’s a great place to be!
Will you meet me there?
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