But not absolution from the consequences
We often hear people complaining they’re being discriminated against, losing friends and acquaintances, and even being so-called “cancelled” because of the opinions they hold. Somehow they seem to feel that they should be able to hold, and express, their opinions, often loudly, to anyone, without consequence.
Because, of course, they believe their opinion is correct, and that should be honored and respected.
Here’s the thing: everyone else is also entitled to their opinions. And that includes their opinion about your opinion.
So, while you are certainly free to hold and share your opinion, you may get disagreement, or even be ostracised, for expressing those views.
Your opinions expose who you are.
If people believe your opinions to be heinous, they may question your morality. If people consider your thoughts to be ignorant, they may think you less than intelligent or downright stupid. If people view your opinions as oppressive or prejudiced, they may consider you a bigot. If people view your opinions as uncaring and insensitive to the needs of others, they may consider you a self-centered narcissist.
Holding an opinion, no matter how righteous or correct you believe it to be, does not give you blanket immunity from criticism or ridicule.
Just the opposite, in fact. A well-considered opinion should invite thoughtful discourse, and be open to rational defense, and even be open to being changed in the face of new information.
But the hardest lesson of all, it seems, is what I’d call our right to “freedom of association”.
If you clearly hold opinions I consider being wrong or harmful to society or the people around you — particularly people I care about — then I have the right to not want to associate with you.
Particularly when I know your opinion isn’t open to revision, I’m more likely to just walk away.
Respect is earned, they say, but it’s also lost. One of the fastest ways to lose the respect of others is to routinely hold and frequently express opinions that others would not consider worthy of respect.
You have the right to your opinions, but with that right comes the responsibility of accepting the consequences.