Does it Matter What One Thinks?

I have a hunch that the question posed in the title to this post will elicit different answers from men and women. Broadly speaking, men tend to assume that what they think and say matters. They pride themselves on being reasonable, objective, and well-informed. Many of them are, and I treasure the conversations I have had with such, especially those who have stretched my mind and understanding. I think it fair to say, however, that women are in a less fortunate position. No matter how intelligent or well-educated a woman may be, she will often find her opinion disparaged or disregarded for no other reason that that she is a woman. I have sometimes chuckled a little chuckle when taking part in conversations where some hapless man has kindly explained something to a female friend or colleague I know to be an expert in the subject under discussion. I notice that in most such cases the woman turns the conversation or lapses into silence rather than confronting her interlocutor. Is that weakness or wisdom? Does it matter what one thinks?

I have been thinking about this in the light of what St Benedict has to say about the uses and abuses of speech and the current Brexit debate. Some of the debate has not really been debate at all but a trading of slogans and insults that has done nothing to help any of us to a deeper understanding of the complex issues involved. Likewise, some of the personal attacks on individuals have been 0beyond the pale. Indeed, some of those on Theresa May have been so ugly that I have found myself sympathizing with her — something I never thought I could. But sympathy is not the same as agreement. In a democracy one has both the right and the duty to speak out; but there is a catch. To speak from a position of knowledge is one thing; to speak from a position of ignorance is quite another. Yesterday’s acceptance by the other EU member states of the so-called Brexit deal presents every UK citizen with a challenge that has enormous implications for the future. How we deal with it matters, but do any of us know exactly how we should?

The only constructive suggestion I can make is one most readers will be expecting: to listen carefully to what others say, to weigh their words and exercise restraint in responding, especially when negative emotions are aroused. It is very easy to echo the anger of another without being aware that one is doing so. This morning I noticed quite a lot of anger on Facebook, but I am certain many of the angriest were totally unaware that their words might stir up a corresponding anger in their readers — though more directed at them than the objects they had intended. It is a perennial problem. We feel things deeply and choose words that express our feelings, letting them tumble out of us without any checks or balances. Sometimes, however,  a pause to reflect can be beneficial. Not everything has to be voiced as loudly as possible. Benedict expects his monks to be thoughtful and when they do speak, to do so in a few, well-chosen words (RB 7. 60–61). I think there is something in that for all of us, male or female, for or against Brexit or any other burning topic of the day, don’t you?

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9 thoughts on “Does it Matter What One Thinks?”

  1. The quote I fall back to Sister, is from Mother Teresa of Calcutta “Your business first is with god”. Blessing and thank-you for sharing. Ruth

  2. I too found myself sympathising with T. May, and wondered if I was finally losing it. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one surprised at myself – and it’s a timely reminder that sympathy is not the same as agreement, and so sympathy is allowed.
    My challenge is to control my anger at the whole appalling situation, and to speak succinctly and with restraint. Not sure that I can manage it, though I’ve got a little better through the years ……

  3. Thanks for a blog that reaches deeper than the surface banality of the various brexit debates and demonstrates (for me at least) that you can hold a sane conversation without rancour or argument. I have to be honest, I have ignored the debate recently, as it is too unpleasant to even participate, without incurring the irrational response to what you may consider a reasoned debating point.
    I think that concentrating on God’s Kingdom and Christ our King as we did yesterday is much more productive. In church today, as we sat patiently, waiting on those who come and go, light a candle or kneel to pray, normally at the rear pews, as if wanting to make a quick getaway. We church sitters talked more about our local community, what is happening, how someone who came in for help at our Parish Coffee morning was looked after and how they are now. We talked about the funeral tomorrow of a much loved, Catholic husband of J, who was sitting with us, and just listening and being comforted by being in familiar surroundings, with friends, who love her, as much as we loved her husband. One consolation was that the week of his death, he came to the Eucharist with us on the Thursday with J, only to succumb the following Monday to an undetected Pancreatic Cancer. We spoke about his Naval Career from Able Seaman to Lieutenant Commander, for his singing as part of the small Group, called the “Willow Trio” for our Willow Lunch Club, in particular “Sea Shanties’ that many of the lone or vulnerable adults who come to the club knew well and sang along with. So, tomorrow our local Catholic Church, run by the Franciscan Friars will be full of Anglicans praying for the repose of his soul in solidarity with J and the whole family.
    These are the things that are important to us. Relationships, built through reaching out to people, across denominations (or mixed marriages as I recall them being described) in love and God’s mercy and grace.

  4. Sage advice as always. That comes from a man who will try to be less like the generalised picture you paint of us that, I am afraid, is all too accurate…

    • I would never put you in the category I described, Joseph! But, as you know, I like to make a little sally in the first para, so people will think about what I say in the next. 🙂

  5. Unintended consequences comes to mind. The referendum frankly was granted for tactical political reasons (protect Conservatives v UKIP). However, the vote – whichever way it had gone – has huge, generational results. Pandoras Box.
    Pray that we may listen and respect each other, including (perhaps especially) those we do not agree with.

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