You Are Entitled to Your Opinion

But not absolution from the consequences

Shouting into a bullhorn

We often hear people complaining they’re being discriminated against, losing friends and acquaintances, and even being “cancelled” because of the opinions and beliefs they hold and express, or the practices they engage in. Somehow they seem to feel that they should be able to hold, express and practice without consequence.

Because, of course, they believe their position is correct. As the One True Answer, it should obviously be honored and respected. Not to do so is, itself, disrespectful.

That’s not how it works.

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 — freedom of speech and all that — you may get disagreement for expressing those views. In extreme cases you may be ostracized from a segment of your community or peer group.

“When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.”
― Maya Angelou

Expressing your opinions tells the world 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. 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.

You absolutely have the right to express your opinion — again, freedom of speech and all that. But holding and exposing an opinion, no matter how righteous you believe it to be, does not give you immunity from criticism. Or even ridicule.

Just the opposite, in fact. A well-considered opinion should invite thoughtful discourse, and be open to rational defense. It should even be open to being changed in the face of new information.

The hardest lesson of all, it seems, is “freedom of association”.

If you (or your business) hold opinions or engage in practices I consider to be 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. Period. That’s not stifling your freedom of speech or action in any way. That’s not “cancelling” you. It’s not preventing others from associating with you.

It’s just a consequence of my opinion of your position. Particularly when I know your opinion isn’t open to revision, I’m more likely to just walk away, choosing not to associate with you as before. If you’re a business engaging in practices I disagree with, I may simply choose to take my business elsewhere.

Both are simply examples of my freedom to choose. Nothing more. I’m not asking, or even insisting you change (though I suppose it’s likely I wish you would), I’m simply exercising my right to choose who and what to associate myself with.

Again, that’s not cancelling anything. It’s simply a difference of opinion leading to the consequence of choices being made. Choices you might not like.

You have exactly the same freedom. This is as it should be.

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 others would not consider worthy of respect. Perhaps if those others matter to you, you might reconsider, but again, no one is forcing you to do so.

You have the right to your opinions, but with that right comes the responsibility of accepting the consequences.

(Originally posted December 17, 2022. Updated.)

7 thoughts on “You Are Entitled to Your Opinion”

  1. Thanks, Leo. I have lost a few friends in this turbulent social climate. I don’t regret it because they have shown themselves to be people I can no longer respect and I choose not to associate with those I can’t respect

  2. You are so on point. I have stopped going to certain businesses because their stated values do not align with what I believe. In something very similar, I have always told my kids that you are who you hang out with. If you hang with kids known to be sketchy or untrustworthy, that puts you in the same category as them in the public eye.

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