Recently, a friend mentioned that I have “strong opinions.” True, I replied.
But believe it or not, it hasn’t always been so. In high school, I had very few opinions. My sister was a huge Lionel Richie fan, but which musician did I swoon after? No one, really.
One day, I mentioned this to my grandmother—that I didn’t really have a favorite band or a favorite this or that. She assured me that as I matured, I would find my favorites.
But I didn’t want to commit to anything. I was a people pleaser, needing to stay malleable at all costs, although, deep down, I sensed this as a cop-out.
The growth my grandmother mentioned did come, more as a spiritual awakening that prioritized my life’s ambitions. But I could point to a much earlier time as the moment I became aware of my inner convictions.
A demand had been made upon my nine-year-old self that I didn’t like. “It’s not fair!” I complained to my dad, stomping my foot. “No one said life would be fair,” he returned. “But it’s not fair that it’s not fair,” I muttered.
Therein lies the root of my “strong opinions.” As a youngster, I sensed the injustice of things, and it burned. My dad’s wise comeback didn’t help. I wasn’t OK with just accepting it.
Dad was right about life not being fair, but the God who made it is fair. He cares how things go with us humans, and he made us to care, too. The burning in my insides as a child was the right response to a world that had lost its bearings.
I’ve also tended to root for the little guy, encouraging the downtrodden to rise from the ashes and find their purpose in this world. This sensibility was fine-tuned by having parents who were teachers. Growing up on the Fort Peck reservation, where there were countless cries of injustice—many legitimate—gave further depth to that inclination.
But it took motherhood to really focus my priorities. At that point, I got an up-close glimpse of the vulnerable and needy and began to see, with clarity, the many ways children’s most primal needs and rights are minimized in our society today.
If you look back to my more controversial “Living Faith” columns, you’ll find this sense of injustice at its base. It might be conveyed primarily as deep concerns about abortion or surrogacy or transgenderism, but at heart, it’s about justice, and often, about children or others being taken advantage of or discounted altogether.
We’re all motivated by something, and while not all motivations are life-giving, there’s nothing wrong with having strong opinions if they’re inspired by a desire for good. I’m 55 now, but inside, I’m still just a nine-year-old wanting the world to be more just.
I want to die saying I at least tried. And I’m excited to tell Grandma someday that she was right. I found my favorite things: God, family, friends, and life.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Jan. 29, 2024.]