“I can only imagine how you feel,” I wrote. “I really do think it’s more than cliché to say that men must be humble about this issue.”

About 36 hours later, over my morning coffee, I spotted an article on The Times website about men and abortion, and I read this passage:

Paul Noble, 57, a retired high school teacher in Illinois, grew up in a “very white, very Catholic” community in the suburbs of Chicago. He said he learned from those around him that he should be “pro-life.”

His perspective changed during his sophomore year of college in Wisconsin. He was a resident assistant in his dorm at the time, and a young woman came to him for advice. “She sat down and immediately started to cry. She said, ‘I don’t know what to do. I’m pregnant,’” Mr. Noble said. She explained to him that she had broken up with her boyfriend and that having a baby was not an option.

“I was just kind of agog listening to her talk,” Mr. Noble said. “This feeling washed over me — I don’t know if it was shame or humility — and I remember thinking to myself: ‘Why did I think I had a right to have an opinion on this subject?’”

He’s of course entitled to an opinion. Men have a role in reproduction, a role in families, a role in communities. And it’s silly to think that individuals should develop moral convictions and make political judgments only about matters that affect them in the most direct and immediate ways. That’s not how democracy works, it’s not how human nature works and it’s not how societies are stitched together.

But he was recognizing something important, something essential, which is that he would never carry a potential life to term, with all the fear, pain, sacrifice and difficult decisions that often attend that process. In our culture, he would probably never be made to feel the degree of responsibility for a child that so many people expect mothers to take on instantly and happily and forevermore. The stakes for him were hugely different from the stakes for his fellow student. That didn’t and doesn’t preclude an opinion, but it sure as hell compels “humility.”

I love that he used that word. I wish it was front of mind for more of us — for all of us. I wish Justice Clarence Thomas felt just a dab of humility as he elevated his and his scheming wife’s regressive vision for our country above a majority of Americans’ values. I wish his most conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court — who “prefer to set American law as they believe it should be set, even when they must overrule longstanding precedent,” as David Leonhardt observed in The Morning newsletter in The Times — would reacquaint themselves with it.

“The arrogance and unapologetic nature of the opinion are breathtaking,” Linda Greenhouse wrote in The Times, referring to the reversal of Roe, and she’s right. No matter the flaws of the Roe decision itself, it determined American law for half a century, during which the culture shifted, the possibilities for women expanded and the science of dealing with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies advanced. A precedent that longstanding, with ripple effects that broad, matters.

Also responding in The Times to the court’s seismic ruling last Friday, Bret Stephens wrote: “For me, the word that comes to mind is arrogance. Supreme arrogance.” It’s no accident that he and Linda, who occupy different places on the ideological spectrum, landed on the same term.

I’m mentioning humility and arrogance specifically in the context of Roe, but I’m also thinking and speaking more broadly than that. In our political fights, in our personal lives, all of us should ponder and factor in the limits of our understanding. All of us should accept that the world doesn’t exist to mirror our preferences or validate our prejudices. It’s richer for that. And peace depends on such acceptance.



This story originally Appeared on Nytimes.com