As I sipped my tea, a conversation about thinking, got me thinking.
In a cafe, I could hardly avoid overhearing a woman at the next table. Sitting with her back to me, she was loudly telling her friend exactly how to fix her apparently broken life.
While the solutions were obvious to the speaker, the expression on the face of her friend suggested otherwise. A picture of patience, she sat and waited for a pause in the tirade.
'Actually I'm not completely incompetent, you know,' she said. 'I've got through 63 years by thinking for myself, and I think I can handle this one.’
‘Yes’, snapped the other, ‘and see what sort of a mess you’re in by trying to do it all yourself!’
‘But it’s my mess and I’m fine with that.’
‘Oh, you never listen to anyone else. Miss Independent! Don’t know why I waste my breath.’
And with that, the conversation was deftly moved to safer, neutral ground. After all, friendships can be both precarious and precious.
What is it, then, with thinking for ourselves? Is it arrogance or self-sufficiency? Is it independence or stubbornness? Perhaps it’s all of that plus the determination to take responsibility for our own actions. In this world where everyone has an opinion on how we should be, the choice to think our way through complex situations, using trial and error as well as hard-won wisdom, needs to be applauded.
In doing so, we are not ignoring other people’s feelings and opinions. After all, our friends usually have our best interests at heart. Rather, doing our own thinking puts those views into perspective. We have the opportunity to place our thinking alongside that of others and trust our judgment.
Thinking for ourselves doesn’t dismiss well-intended advice, but it does balance it with our own expert knowledge of what is best for us.