My husband, Vinny Sal and I were discussing the topic of the Lenten season that begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14th, this week. In the Christian faith, the Lenten season begins 40 days of “fasting” and often the faithful give up certain thing(s) in their life that replicates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert. It is a time of self-reflection and personal development.
In passing, I said to Vinny Sal that I would give up my coarse language or in his words, my “potty mouth.” I never use God’s name in vain, but I can let loose with the “F” word, or the “BS” word, or just “shit.” (When I as five years old, I told someone in my kindergarten class that my dad made up the word shit. I don’t know why I thought that or why I am writing about it now for that matter but I’m sure all farmers say shit for a variety of reasons.)
Vinny Sal suggested rather than giving up something negative to begin doing something positive. “But that’s not the reason for Lent, is it?” I countered. (He was raised Catholic and I was raised a Lutheran. We have these faith-based discussions often.) His reasoning was if I began something positive it may allow someone else to forgo something negative.
Which brings me to the unveiling of the Obama’s portraits
The official portraits of former President Barak Obama and former First Lady, Michelle Obama were unveiled today at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Their portraits were painted by African American artists, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald respectively. The portraits garnered varying comments and opinions on social media on the artist’s renderings of the Obamas.
In response to someone’s dislike of the portraits a the social media thread, the person posted if they did not like the portraits or took the time to get to know the artists’ work, then viewers should not express their opinion. (I am paraphrasing since the original post wasn’t very kind.) I appreciate art, but I do not have an art education, nor do I know these artists or their works. But their exchange did give me pause as to the matter of expressing opinions.
Is it okay to express our opinions/critiques of an artist’s work or is it best to adhere to my mother’s advice, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”
I posted this question on my own personal Facebook wall, but in retrospect I was thinking about opinions in general. As you can guess I received differing opinions.
One friend posted that she tries not to give her opinion unless asked. She reasoned that she doesn’t care about other’s opinions unless she has solicited the opinion from someone she knows/likes/respects.
Others stated that if the opinion is given “respectfully,” “constructively,” while others posted that “dialogue is good,” or “try to find a positive way to state it.” In her words, “spread the love not the hate.”
Which brings me back to our discussion on Lent
Rather than give up coarse language which Vinny says is impossible for me…. “Why would you try to give up something you know you cannot be successful in giving up? It’s the same as trying to give up eating sugar.”
I hate to say it. He’s right.
I would fail at giving up my occasional coarse language and my occasional need for a cookie.
But what I think I can do, and what I would like to do is think twice about offering my opinion without being asked.
Let me be clear. Giving up my opinions is different than giving up my values.
In other words, does my opinion further the cause of a beneficial dialogue on a topic? Or am I just offering my opinion because I am disgusted, angry, or worse, feeling hateful. Because let’s face it, there is a lot in this country and in this world that gets me disgusted, angry, and yes, hateful. When the subject challenges my values I cannot remain silent, but I can process the opinion before expressing it.
So rather than just spewing my opinion to someone or vomiting it on a social media post, I’ll think twice and ask myself these questions:
(Hopefully my friends don’t think I do that too often. The spewing and the vomiting, I mean.)
Is my opinion directed at the right audience that can do something about whatever has challenged my values?
If no, don’t.
Does anyone really care about my opinion whether it is valid or not?
If no, don’t.
Has someone asked me for my opinion?
If no, don’t.
Is my opinion beneficial to others?
If no, don’t.
While I did not post my opinions or reviews on the Obama portraits, the commentary of those who did taught me that when I come through on the other side of these next 40 days, I will be more thoughtful in my opinions, in my reviews and in my response to others.
So, what’s your opinion?