It's very hard to avoid having an opinion on things. Maybe even impossible.
Beliefs such as those to do with religion are usually pretty much set in stone and any attempt to convince someone with a strong belief that they're wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, will only be met by blunt refusal to acknowledge the argument followed by fingers in ears and some out-of-tune singing.
An opinion is rather more flexible, and as time passes I notice this more and more in myself.
Often an opinion is formed on the basis of limited information. You pick up on other people's viewpoints, hear snippets of news articles, get swayed by stereotyping, read a newspaper article, and compile these things into an opinion that makes sense to you.
If subjected to closer scrutiny however, these opinions are often found to be flawed, and sometimes more full of holes than a teabag.
The trouble is we can form opinions on subjects that we don't even have experience of, taking hearsay as truth, and this is where the old "Walk a mile in my shoes" thing emerges.
We can easily make assumptions about people based on what they look like, how they dress, what car they drive, or what job they do. We might see someone in the street in shabby clothes, dragging their heels with their eyes downcast, and immediately assume that they're some n'er-do-well who never made an effort in life, but for all we know they could have just gone through a traumatic experience that has left them emotionally battered.
We don't have all the information, and until we do we don't have any right to judge. But we do anyway.
You see a six and a half foot neanderthal with a shaved head and acres of tattoos, and you immediately cross the road because you feel threatened. This might be justified or it might not, but first impressions generate an opinion, and you make a decision based on the opinion that someone who looks like that is a potential threat and act accordingly.
The thing is, he might be a great guy who by accident of genetics turned out big, shaves his head because he can't be arsed to deal with bed hair in the morning, and happens to like body art.
I've shared a great many opinions on this blog. Some I still hold on to and others have changed.
For example, I've spent plenty of time criticizing tattoos on women.
I still don't like things like this:
To me it's like slapping one of those 'No Fear' stickers on a Ferrari - just wrong.
But I have no problem with subtle things like this:
I've even said that tats on men make them look moronic, and yet last year I got a large rose tattooed on my right upper arm in memory of my mum who died ten years earlier (her name was Rose), and in two weeks I'm getting another tat done.
That opinion got turned around, although there are still plenty of aspects of this whole area that don't appeal, but I no longer make a negative judgement of someone on the basis of them having tattoos.
I still hold on to my belief that we're all entitled to our own opinions, but what I've come to learn is that opinions are subject to change, or at least some flexibility as experience and the information on which they are based alters.
Although I do try to avoid making sweeping generalisations, I also need to exercise caution in expressing strong opinions because when they change you can make yourself look a bit of a fool.