Just My Opinion
In my school days (and probably long after that!) I was a lot like Hermione Granger in that I always had something to say. I wasn’t nearly as smart as she is, but I had lots of opinions and I had to share them.
The problem with over sharing is that inevitably you become a pest or worse, you actually hurt people. I probably did a little of both in my younger years. I hope I’m more careful now. If you were one of those people that I annoyed with all my opinions, I’m sorry! And if you were one that I hurt, I hope I have made things right with you. One thing I have learned over the years is how little I really know about anyone’s experience but my own.
A few years back a leader in my church gave a talk entitled, “Your Name is Safe in Our Home”. The emphasis was on avoiding gossip or talking unkindly about others. I have found in my own life that it also includes making blanket statements about how things should be. I’m sure in the past I shared things like, “In our family we always do this, so our kids are just turning out perfectly!” It is only as the parent of young adults that I can see how hurtful those comments were to parents who had “always done this” and whose kids were not turning out perfectly. Now I know that child raising is more nuanced – that children are individuals with agency and personality – not some constant in a child raising equation.
The question I try to ask myself now is, “will this help or will it hurt?” I’m not obligated to share all my opinions – and I’d be smart not to, because some of them might be embarrassing to admit to in coming years! I’m working on limiting my advice to people who actually ask for it. My kids would probably say I’ve got a ways to go yet. I do believe that sharing our personal experiences can be helpful – but we need to be careful about how we do it. Our experiences are unique and not all lessons are transferable. The words I found most comforting after Tom’s death may not be comforting to someone else who has lost a loved one. The counsel I found most helpful was that which I asked for. The comfort that was most comforting was strangely free from counsel – hugs and expressions of love and a willingness to listen.
In the end I hope that I speak more in love now and less to show off what I know. Because really, I just look foolish when I try to be wise. And really, what I want to do is make people feel loved and understood as a result of my words.