Recently I admitted to the fact that I am an opinionated person. My husband told me that one of the reasons he fell in love with me is the way I express my feelings so passionately on matters that excite me. For the record, many things excite me. The thing is, we both appreciate people with opinions mainly because we love to engage in long and intense discussions about things. While there are many people who share our passion to talk, others don’t. My poor cousin-in-law has being labelled with names like “cheong pek” (wall in Cantonese) by his wife due to his passive and quiet manner during arguments and fights.
However, as opinionated as one can be, how does one know when an opinion is not welcomed? We live in a pluralistic society whereby the freedom of expression may not be such a privilege. Some opinions may not be necessary especially when they hurt or cause to offend.
While my husband, being French, is a strong proponent for the freedom of expression, I still practice some reservations. Sometimes it is difficult for me to convince him that while I appreciate the right to express, there are limitations and responsibilities, especially in a pluralistic society like ours.
Anyway, one day while we were hanging out with my husband’s friends in France, we were asked about our family planning. We told them that we intend to adopt a baby girl. One of his friends started to express her shock and then tried to argue her way into convincing us that we should have our own child, instead of adoption.
During the course of this, I admit that we were both offended by her strong opinions about our personal choice. However, the same issue was brought up again a few days after when we dined at a restaurant in Lyon with some friends. It appeared that the owner of the restaurant is a friend of one the company.
As usual, animated conversations took place and I was cornered by the owner who tried to strike a conversation with me. Strangely enough, family planning seems to be a topic of interest for the French.
Horror of all horrors, I was confronted again with the same reaction but this time keeping in mind that I had only met this person for the first time in my life. I could not bring myself to argue with the man and my constant response to his attack was, “It’s a personal choice.”
Truth be told that if he was a close friend, I would have worked myself up in a frenzy, in an attempt to win my argument. Fortunately enough, I made up my mind that he was not worth getting all worked up for. After all, I am never going to step foot on his restaurant again after the way he had offended me.
My husband and I talked about this and we both agreed that these people have absolutely no right to tell us what’s best for us and that our choice is wrong, despite the fact that they have a right to express their opinions.
Then I thought to myself, why do some people feel so comfortable in giving their opinions and criticizing other people’s personal choices. Another thought was, why was I offended when it was simply an opinion? I guess while it is acceptable to express one’s opinion, it is unacceptable to criticize other’s personal life choices, especially if they are not moralistic by nature, bearing in mind that morality is yet to be defined.
It would be easy for me to tell someone that beating your wife up or child pornography are wrong while harder for me to tell a homosexual person that he is immoral. I may not agree with some religious beliefs, it doesn’t give me the right to criticize those who believe.
Some people like to say, “My opinion is free. You can take it or leave it.” The danger is, one does not always know that as free as it might sound, there is always a price to pay.
Written on 29 November 2006