It is a good and right thing to form opinions and to express them. It is even better if those opinions are formed, with the best of your ability, in alignment with a well-formed conscience, with a mind towards God, with a mind towards Catholic teaching, and of course Sacred Scripture.
But we are human, and we all have our own life experience. I wrote a couple days ago about how we all have a unique set of life experiences that help make us who we are.
Because of this, our opinions can gravitate to areas in response to specific circumstances and experiences. Two people can fundamentally agree on the morality of a particular act, while still fundamentally differing on ancillary things in association with that act. Whether you feel empathy and compassion for someone engaged in a behavior or whether you think people need to be punished for it will likely be due to past experiences that have led you to this point of view. That, along with natural differences in temperament and personality contribute as well.
I reflect on my own weaknesses in this area. I have very strong convictions and opinions on the rightness and wrongness of many things. That is unwavering. However, I think we often equate a pastoral attitude, empathy, and compassion with compromise on principle.
In my own experience, I sat on the board of a Pregnancy Center for six years. The entire Board of Directors were very strongly Pro-Life and felt abortion was absolutely wrong. But it would have been counterproductive and harmful if the folks working in the office – and the Board supporting them – had viewed the visitors with a judgmental heart. There are times and places for the politics and the arguments, but not here. This was a place to welcome them, to listen to them, to try and understand their situation, and only then could we try to steer them away from considering an abortion. We needed to address the person, the situation, the experiences. If we simply addressed the issue they would walk out and never come back, and probably tell everyone else they knew about their experience.
But in our personal, daily lives, how often do we forget this? Shouldn’t all our interactions start with that approach? Sure, they probably should.
But I’m horrible at it. Because it requires that a person actually listen, and also care.
I am going to try and improve. I think a simple way of doing that is to try and get in the habit of asking a question along the lines of “So, what has led you to look at things this way?” And then shut up until they are done.
We’ll see how it goes.