February 2006 - Volume 10, Issue 7
The doctor said, "I'm sorry, John. You need an operation".
John asked, "Doctor, do you mind if I get a second opinion?"
The doctor replied, "OK! You don't need an operation."
This old joke pokes fun at people's desire to obtain a second opinion as an aid in decision making. Depending on the matter at hand, a person may seek an expert in the pertinent field or a trusted friend or someone who has contended with the same or a similar issue. A second opinion may be of immeasurable value. Interestingly, a recent article in a scholarly review stated that many high-level, corporate executives have adopted the practice of seeking a third opinion as part of the process of reaching a decision on critical business matters. The source of this third opinion is an individual of honesty and integrity who has no vested interest in the idea being considered or in its outcome. Commonly, when a person becomes a CEO or other high-ranking official in a company, he or she tends to become isolated from the true thoughts and feelings of others in the company. This circumstance becomes a particular problem when these employees are closer to the target market of a project under consideration. The one responsible for the final decision is hindered seriously if he or she is surrounded by those who have a personal interest in pleasing the boss by being supportive of the idea or they may have a bias toward the success of a particular concept or project. The resource serving as the third opinion is above the fray and can provide provocative insights and a wider perspective that may prove to be decisive in reaching the best decision regarding the project under review.
Applying the modality of the Third Opinion to one's personal and spiritual life opens new vistas in making appropriate moral decisions. Reaching the point quite readily, God is the source of the third opinion and prayer is the conference room. Desires, emotions, and other factors easily may isolate one from adequately seeing the whole picture or accurately weighing the possible consequences attendant to the area of concern. Arriving at a right conscience may require a first, a second, and a third opinion.
Moral probity is a goal that is not always clear and obvious. Life situations tend to complicate matters and to introduce ambiguities. Wading through such weighty concerns is rough going. Temptations toward rationalization are occasioned by an apparent good or by a desperate need. A thoughtful person recognizes the necessity of either searching for sound moral literature or of pursuing a resource of sage counsel. Though well-meaning, input of trusted friends may be shaded toward supporting the individual rather than encouraging the person to act virtuously.
The Puritan is never popular, not even in a society of Puritans. In case of a pinch, the mass prefer to be good fellows rather than to be good men.
- John Dewey
The dictates of an overly indulgent society hardly could be relied on to direct one to the pathway that leads to doing the right thing. Good friends and supportive loved ones may be detoured in their thought processes by their very compassion for the person. Nevertheless, a conclusion must be reached. Collecting the advice of people one trusts and making a concerted effort to apply one's own wits in forming a right conscience usually is the proper protocol in the process of moral decision making. One, however, courts peril and invites error by not seeking the offerings of that third opinion - God. Time spent in a contemplative and meditative communion with the Creator is an exceedingly wise practice. Bearing one's soul before the Holy Spirit from a sincere desire to obtain the inspiration and insights only God can provide, beckons the clarity and assurance one needs in achieving a morally correct and an ethically wise decision.
Working in partnership with the Lord and his Church offers the highest guidance possible in addressing the rectitude of a particular course of action. Thus, one may opine that in achieving the correct, loving, and most fruitful result in moral decision making, it pays to be opinionated.
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