This morning in my class we did a great activity – one that was focused on building and verbalizing opinions. I read a number of statements aloud to my class, and they had to choose a place in the room to stand based on whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure. If they were unsure, their task was to listen to the opinions of those who had decided on a stance, and then to use that information to make a decision. Similarly if students had made a decision, their job was to listen to the opinions of others to decide if they were persuaded to change their minds.
One young lady (all of 8 years old!) found herself in a pretty powerful position: when she voiced the opinion (albeit very timidly) that had placed her across the room from nearly all of her peers, she found her opinion was very convincing: it caused most of the other students to cross the room to stand by her side. We discussed how this had happened, and realized that we all have the power to influence the opinions of many others, just by voicing our thoughts.
With this power comes an awful lot of responsibility. People with the strongest opinions are often the first to be heard because they speak the loudest. This doesn’t always mean that they are right. It is a skill in this world to be able to hear a variety of points of view, and then use that information to form your own opinions. It’s a tricky thing to do, and it’s a constant variable. Not doing this is really a lazy option. It’s choosing not to strive for a balanced view, but just allowing yourself to jump on someone else’s bandwagon.
Sometimes we meet or hear from someone who has strong views that we feel we can strongly associate with. Think of the Dalai Lama or Mahatma Ghandi with their views on non-violent conflict resolution – many people are drawn to these ways of thinking and the ideals behind them. Similarly: people with strong (and often controversial) views can draw a lot of followers. Think of Hitler or Mao Tse Tung and the damage their views and actions caused. I repeat: with the power to persuade, comes an awful lot of responsibility.
The way I see it: if your opinion is not causing harm, if it is positive in nature, if it can bring about some kind of thinking or inspire action that’s good for the earth or other people then it’s probably a good thing. The trouble is that your view on that might be different to the view of others…. See the conundrum that we’re faced with?!
A dear friend of mine has a “pendulum theory”: if we can each influence 7 people to change their thoughts or actions to be positive towards the earth and fellow people, the world is moving in the right direction, a kind of “pay it forward” mentality. I think that she has a great and potentially influential idea there… as long as we consider that there are others out there who may influence at least 7 others in negative ways… my goal is to influence many others to think positively and take positive action to try and keep the positive pendulum swinging. But I must remember that with my opinions and the powerful position I find myself in, comes an awful lot of responsibility…