August 24, 2007

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

I think it’s right, therefore it is

Cynthia DewesDo you ever wonder about people? I mean, I know we’re all made in the image and likeness of God, but some of the images presented by our peers just don’t seem, well, godlike.

As you must have guessed by now, I’m opinionated, and I enjoy discussions with other opinionated people. Fortunately, my family and friends provide me with many opportunities for such discussions, and lately my oldest grandson, who is visiting us, has presented me with several heavy-duty ones. About two a day, at least.

It’s finding the godlike or even the merely acceptable side of people which bothers my grandson. It seems that many folks he meets just don’t measure up to his idea of what they should be like, what they should believe or how they should behave.

Of course, being young, he is an idealist. He expects people to be the way he thinks they should be, namely perfect. Never mind that he realizes he and most of his closest relatives and friends are not perfect. It’s the human race in general which disillusions him.

This young man is well-educated and well-informed. He keeps abreast of current commentary and events, and researches topics which catch his interest. So when he forms an opinion about something, he feels it must be correct. In this, he’s a typical opinionated person.

What raises his hackles is when someone holds a different opinion, perhaps one diametrically opposed to what he believes. Ergo, in his eyes that person must either be stupid, unprincipled or careless in his or her reasoning. It’s as simple as that, case closed.

Having lived a number of years before he was even born, I realize that it’s not that simple. Perfectly intelligent, moral people can believe sincerely in ideas that we discarded long ago or wouldn’t consider at all. This does not mean that they are stupid or uncaring, but merely different from us.

My grandson replies. But how can we achieve necessary change or make progress when others hold such wrong opinions?

For example, he thinks that business generally focuses on making big money in any way possible, and that dressing up or wearing a tie to work means giving in to a phony system in which appearances are more important than character and ability. He feels that trying to make a good impression in any situation is insincere.

I tried to point out to him that it’s not making a profit that’s wrong, but the greed that may accompany it. And dressing up for work or church, or showing hospitality, is merely a sign of respect. It’s a sign that we value our work, the place in which we find ourselves, those we work with or the people we meet socially. It’s simply the old “do unto others” idea.

Likewise, when we exchange our opinions with others, we hope that they will give us as respectful a hearing as we give them. Then, if we still disagree, we should keep trying to find something on which we can agree. It may be a long process, but it works because often, being human, the best we can achieve is compromise.

When my grandson finally matures and finds his niche, his joy in personal and professional life, he’ll probably still be an opinionated person. But I pray his opinions will continue to center on a desire for good, along with tolerance for others who find it in a different way.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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