They say that opinions are like a-holes. Everybody has one ... and some of them are poopy.

So what do you do when someone confronts you with an insensitive, misinformed opinion or belief? You get offended. (They also say that being offended is something that white people like, but luckily, in my experience, that enjoyment has transcended racial boundaries. Small changes!) Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of stuff out there to take offense to, and justifiably so. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Stereotypes. That Pi Kapp party, apparently. And that’s just a few.

Look: A lot of people are insensitive, insufferable bigots and that’s just the way they are. It’s excruciating. All we can really do to deal with it is become, well, offended. What’s interesting is that much of the time we spend getting offended is for the sake of others. We’re offended when states pass laws against same-sex marriage. We’re offended when a girl is raped and someone says “Her clothes were slutty; She was asking for it.” And rightly so. When people are unfairly victimized, we take it personally.

So, we tell racist bigots that we are offended at their racist bigotry. And then, maybe, somehow, that person will be a non-racist non-bigot! And the world will be a happy place again! Yay idealism! Consider this, though: It’s pretty difficult to change someone’s opinion. It’s actually really, really hard. And even if it does happen, it takes forever. I mean, even if we limit our discussion to just the brain, every time you change your mind, there’s some rewiring of neural pathways that must take place. When you remember something like a fact, many little neurons help cement it into your long-term memory. So when you start doubting those facts, memories and perceptions, a whole can of worms opens and develops into the long-term potentiation that your brain worked so hard to arrange. Many little neurons have to dance the conga in order to stabilize your new opinion. And that’s got to take some time.

Let’s talk in a more social context. Say you admit your opinion is wrong. Well, it’s not as simple as that. Your confession implies that everyone who has influenced your education and the environment in which you were able to develop these opinions is also wrong—your parents, your teachers, your mentors, your friends. It’s pretty tough to believe that your entire moral, political and social education was flawed. So you don’t do it that easily. Oh, at some point, you’ll have to tell everyone that you changed your opinion. It could get awkward. At worst, you could be called a hypocrite, and denounced as weak in your beliefs (think: politicians). Reputations could be ruined. And that’s no fun.

So when someone’s poopy opinion offends you, you take offense to years of ingrained beliefs fostered by family, social order and pesky neurons. However much you complain and tell the world how offended you are, changing someone’s opinion is a daunting task that could take years. You have to persist, to educate others on a variety of levels with a variety of examples and evidence. Let’s be real—neither of you have the time.

When you consider that, somehow being offended doesn’t seem to be the right way to solve the problem of crappy opinions. And maybe crappy opinions aren’t even the real problem. Why do people even have these opinions? Probably because they were raised or somehow influenced to think that way. And why is that?

Well, for starters, the United States has a veritable ocean of examples of historical intolerance. Crappy opinions expose things like cultural misunderstandings, prejudice, conflict and sheer ignorance. It’s uncomfortable stuff.

Offense is not a mutual process. It’s a static construct, one where you simply acknowledge the perpetuation of the problem, but do not actively try to solve it, or understand how it became so enduring. So hey, maybe being offended is a little overrated.

The next time someone alerts you to their poopy opinion, instead of letting them know how offended you are and what a racist, masochistic, insufferable bigot they are, maybe take a different approach. Don’t take it personally. Calmly ask why they think that. Ask them to present personal evidence of what led them to believe such things and why they continue to maintain those beliefs. Ask questions. Probe. And then, do the same for yourself.

In short, have a discussion. Do it in person or online; it doesn’t matter. At worst, you will have kept an open mind and encouraged someone else to do so as well. At best, your discussion will incite others to join in, and more and more people will confront these issues and try to understand why and how they are perpetuated in today’s society. And if enough people join in, it becomes a lot easier for examples and evidence to be presented on a variety of levels, for neurons to start dancing, for (other people’s, if not your own) opinions to slowly start changing.

And hey, maybe then there really will be fewer poopy opinions in the world. Unfortunately, I don’t think the same logic applies to poopy a-holes.

Indu Ramesh is a Trinity junior. This is her final column of the semester.