Some mornings when I scroll through my social media feeds it feels like we are in the midst of an outrage epidemic.
It feels like every day there is another serious issue or disturbing story that has folks up in arms. Don’t get me wrong, I believe much of the frustration is legitimate and appropriate. But is anyone else tired of being angry and outraged all the time? It’s exhausting!
Caught Up in the Outrage Epidemic
Last week, in the midst of the Serena Williams US Open story, I found myself jumping on the outrage train and had to check myself.
Here’s what happened.
When the story broke, I read a few headlines, and without even clicking through to read an article about what happened, I formed a knee-jerk opinion. Because I’m a proud Feminist, I quickly and without question sided with writers defending Williams. The idea of a male umpire unfairly ruling against a woman fit squarely into my worldview. I didn’t feel the need to research further; instead, I spent my energy getting angry.
So when a friend, who I respect very much and typically agree with, posted something defending the umpire’s calls, I was shocked. I immediately began formulating a nasty response in my head and prepared to take him to task.
Thankfully, I paused. I’m not quite sure why – I must have been side-tracked with life and wasn’t able to fire off my takedown. And then a funny thing happened. When I stepped away from the computer, I began to think first about my friend. I know him to be thoughtful and kind. He isn’t (to my knowledge) sexist and doesn’t spew racist rhetoric. Plus, he has much more expertise in sports of all kinds than I do.
Then I took a look in a metaphorical mirror. I hadn’t watched the match. I hadn’t taken time to read in-depth about the incident. I don’t know anything about tennis and have probably never watched a complete tennis match. And while I thoroughly enjoyed Serena’s cameo in Lemonade, I know very little about her or her tennis career.
When It’s Time to Withhold an Opinion
Had I formed an educated opinion about this particular incident? Did I really have the right to take my friend to task?
Was my hastily-made and expertise-absent opinion going to add anything to the conversation?
There are days when I forget, just because I have an opinion about something, doesn’t mean I’m required to share it.
So I decided to sit that one out. That wasn’t my argument. My opinion wasn’t needed.
Now, before you begin to write an angry response to what I’ve just shared, here are two things I’m not saying:
- My friend was right. Frankly, I don’t know if he was or if he wasn’t. Even though many in my tribe have and will argue that his point of view is wrong, I don’t have the knowledge to make that determination. Also, I didn’t take the time to educate myself to decide.
- We should remain silent and ignorant about issues important to us. We can’t use the abundance of complicated and challenging stories in the news as an excuse to tune out. We must continue to educate ourselves and speak up against ignorance and injustice. But frankly, there aren’t enough hours in my day to become an expert on every issue that dominates a news cycle. And I think it’s okay to choose my battles.
To Share or Not to Share?
I’m ashamed to admit that forming knee-jerk opinions based on very little research or expertise is something I do from time to time. It’s a character defect. I’m learning that sharing those hastily-made opinions about every issue-of-the-day isn’t necessary.
Of course, there are many times when sharing our opinions is essential. Especially if:
- We have expertise in a subject
- We are committed to a cause or ideology
- We are exercising our civic duty
It’s also okay to keep our opinions to ourselves from time to time and, instead, listen to what others have to say. Bonus points if we listen to others who know more about an issue than we do or who might have a different point of view than we do! When we aren’t speaking/typing/sharing it’s easier to learn.
Once we’ve listened and taken time for critical thinking and quiet contemplation, perhaps then it’s time to shout our well-researched and carefully-considered opinions from the rooftops. But it’s also okay, occasionally, to admit we don’t know and just keep an open mind.