Can Your Private Thoughts Cost You Credibility or Relationships?
You, yes you, kind, respectful, enlightened, conciliatory you, might be oppressing someone right now and not even know it. Oppression isn’t always obvious, and even when it is, it certainly wasn’t conceived that way.
No matter the outward expression or degree of oppression, injustice begins in private thoughts with beliefs and assumptions about basic things. There is a distinct train of thought from what you believe (or don’t) about God, mankind, good, and evil, and what you think about everything else ranging from issues of social justice to what motivates your best friend.
What we think about social, cultural, or political matters is our own business. Even private thoughts about other people are our business, not theirs. What you think about issues, and even what you think about me is really none of my concern.
Until it is.
Just because our private thoughts are our own, it doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Unjust private thoughts are seeds that manifest in public injustices that range in impact from broken relationships to changed history.
When it’s time to make public judgments, our private judgments will be expressed in some form. Sometimes our unjust private judgments mix with our desire to avoid conflict or upset or… exposure, and they show up in the form of confusion or neutrality or apathy.
And that’s when everything from genocide to racism to sexism can thrive. That’s when things happen that range from people dying in the street, to friendships being broken because the wrong side was chosen in a conflict.
Private opinions about things and people matter. They begin in our beliefs and assumptions, they manifest in our ability to act justly, to keep people safe, to end up on the side of right.
It’s easy to brush aside the possibility of prejudice if you consider yourself a peaceful, intelligent, and justice-minded person. But ironically, it’s sometimes irenic people who are least able to see their prejudices. When those unjust opinions are exposed, they are sometimes the least able to own them. Sometimes it’s the kindest and friendliest of souls who most need to suspect themselves.
Your thoughts about issues and other people may one day find expression in a way that you never expected, even if only in the form of a confused inability to judge when you're called to. And it may have consequences that you never wanted, like loss of credibility, or even relationship.
Guard your judgments about things and people carefully, even the ones that are none of anyone’s business.