“Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it’s the voice of God. Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.” (Mark Twain)
I retired after 31.5 years at hospice at the end of 2020. I was amazed at much of the public opinion I received as I made this transition.
“You should take it easy and do nothing.”
“You should play golf every day.”
“You should go out regularly drinking with you friends.”
“You should have more fun and not take life so seriously.”
“Don’t start volunteering for everything.”
So many folks had their opinions of what I should do. I believe most people do things they don’t want to do (or don’t do things they want to do) because of what others might think or say about them. We sacrifice a great deal to the Great God of Opinion – happiness, self-worth, freedom.
Now that I have been retired for over a year here is what’s happened:
- I am busier than ever. I do sleep in later and my wife and I enjoy more quality time, especially in the evening binge watching favorite shows and movies.
- I would rather have lunch with a friend than to go out drinking at night.
- My idea of fun is going to the library several times a week and reading voraciously. My fun things include playing the piano a half hour a day; taking our dogs for a walk; tending to my one-acre yard; writing articles like this one; exercising on my treadmill, or going for a swim.
- I take great delight in having more time for ministry in officiating at celebrations of life (weddings and memorial services) and serving on nonprofit boards about issues that concern me.
I would be miserable if I did all the things many have suggested for my retirement. I watched my grandfather retire and go to the rocking chair of inactivity. He died very quickly after retirement. My goal is to be joyful, thankful, and active. I want to live as long as I can by staying engaged in many things.
If your faith in yourself is strong, the opinion of others (which often they get from the opinion of others, who got it from the opinion of still others) is not as influential. There are some great quotes about public opinion that have inspired me:
- “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a person thinks of himself or herself, that is what determines, or rather, indicates, his or her fate.” (Thoreau)
- “In the choice of a horse and a wife, a man must please himself, ignoring the opinion and advice of friends.” (George John White-Melville)
- “It were not best that we should all think alike. It is difference of opinion that makes horse races.” (Mark Twain)
Others’ opinions of you and your opinions of others are the cause of a great deal of unnecessary negative thinking. Really all negative thinking is unnecessary, but the guilt, fear and resentment generated by opinions are particularly unnecessary. We must learn to praise the idiosyncrasies, the eccentricities, the quirks and the singularities of others.
It will help us to praise our own eccentricities and singularities.
By Bob Mueller
Bob Mueller is a Bishop with the United Catholic Church and can be reached at bobmueller.org
P.S. Have bedtime blues?