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“So do you like this one? What do you think?”

I was in the dressing room helping my future mother-in-law choose a dress for our wedding. I wasn’t keen on the color, but it fit fine. However, the neckline was low and quite revealing. How could I gently share my opinion when that fact was staring back at me in the mirror? Her eyes scanned the hemline and slowly moved upward, evaluating every aspect of the dress. And then her horrified look said it all when she zeroed in on the bodice.

“I can’t wear this! Oh! Why didn’t you say something?”

Facts are things known or proved to be true. In the courtroom they are the truth about events, not a person’s interpretation of them.

Opinions, on the other hand, are a person’s viewpoint or judgement that isn’t necessarily based on any facts or knowledge. We can voice our opinion on just about any subject, whether or not we know what we’re talking about. Usually we begin with, “Well, if you ask me…”

As a teacher I was confronted by parents who had their own opinion on how the class should be run or how I should be teaching. I knew that if I followed everything that was suggested, I would be in a tailspin of conflicting approaches.

Unfortunately opinions are often slanted, given a certain angle. These opinions are biased and unfair. When those opinions affect our estimation of other people, we need to back up and reconsider our thinking. And when we sense a bias in someone else’s way of thinking, that they are slanting things to support their opinion, we need to take their comments with a grain of salt. Time to be cautious and skeptical of what they are saying.

In my journalism classes we were admonished to keep our opinions out of any news accounts. Stick to the facts that can be proven to be true. An editorial was the only place for opinions. And if someone should cross the line, we’d better be ready for a disclaimer.

But these days that line between fact and opinion is blurred. Opinions are touted as facts. Challenge those statements at your own peril. If they want your opinion, they will give it to you!

When a large number of people share an opinion, it is vital to check the facts, especially if we are part of that group. Otherwise we will be promoting our group’s ideas regardless if they are right or wrong. Furthermore, we need to be sure we aren’t fostering a biased view at the expense of someone else. When there is no safe option for someone to feel comfortable about challenging the way something is done or how to approach a problem, the climate in a company, organization and even a family suffers.

Our Lord Jesus confronted a climate of opinion from a very powerful group. When faced with the Pharisees’ opinions, Jesus responded with the facts (Matthew 12:22-28). Yet many of them wouldn’t change their opinion because of their bias toward promoting themselves. That bias negated any honest evaluation of the facts that were staring right at them.

One of the most obvious denials of facts was the religious leaders’ response when the man who had been blind from birth could now see. Maybe this wasn’t the same person. He just looked like him. But his parents confirmed his identity. The man boldly said who he was, and still they would not believe what was standing right in front of them. There had to be another explanation (John 9).

But when Lazarus was raised from the dead right before their eyes, the tactic switched and their focus became getting rid of the facts… the fact that Jesus was who He said He was… God’s Son (John 11:45-53).

Jesus did ask for opinions. He asked His disciples who people thought He was. The answer was John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But when He asked them who they thought He was, Peter spoke for them all: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).

He also warned about the opinions of others. “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them” (Luke 21:8).

It is an ongoing challenge to separate facts from opinions, to guard against bias and to treat each other respectfully. This is true for us in our personal lives but especially as leaders in our company, church, or organization. It is crucial for our families. How we handle facts and opinions teaches our children how to approach others, and it influences their view of the world.

Standing firm in those things I know are true, I know are factual, is especially important when it comes to my faith. What some think are only opinions I know are facts.

The disciples said over and over that they had seen the risen Lord. It was a fact! And, if people didn’t want to believe them, there were plenty of others who had seen Him. Just ask them! (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

Everything my Lord Jesus promised, He did. He came to make the blind see and the lame to walk. He came to die for the sins of the world, including mine. He rose to claim victory over death and give me eternal life. Plus He promised to be with me always. And that’s a fact!

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