One of my flaws is I like being right and I will argue when I know I’m right (and even when I think I’m right but I’m actually wrong). It’s a pride thing and something I’ve been working on. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the progress I would like. I am better than I was, and I do a better job holding my tongue when arguing won’t do anything, but I haven’t gotten to the point where I can put the argument aside and move on every time. That’s where I need to be. And then there’s the question of being sure I’m trying to keep a disagreement private. There’s a wise warning from Proverbs about being so quick to argue:
Do not go out hastily to argue your case;
Otherwise, what will you do in the end,
When your neighbor humiliates you?
Argue your case with your neighbor,
And do not reveal the secret of another,
Or he who hears it will reproach you,
And the evil report about you will not pass away.
– Proverbs 25:8-10, NASB
It’s a simple concept. If we are wanting to rush into an argument, we don’t do ourselves any favors. This is especially true if we’re looking to make a public spectacle of it. The worst case scenario is we’re wrong and our opponent reveals our faulty logic. Then we’re embarrassed and it’s our own fault. But it’s not much better for us to choose to argue with someone publicly and reveal them to be wrong. Then they are embarrassed and chances are we’ve damaged any relationship we may have had with that person. We’ve also potentially caused others to lose respect for that person. Neither of those outcomes are what we would want someone to do to us. And thus they fail the second greatest commandment test.
Another mistake is to take our argument to the public and try to curry favor with others. We’re not dealing with the real issue. Instead, we’re looking to get numbers on our side to gang up on the other person. Obviously, this can result in hurt feelings and damaged relationships. It can also lead to folks having a loss of respect for that other person. And since we’ve already covered the fact that these are not very loving outcomes, I won’t belabor the point. Also, by trying to argue the case in the court of public opinion, we could lose the respect of those who matter to us. After all, they see that we’re taking a harmful approach to a disagreement when there is another option available. And for the folks whose opinions we should care about, this sort of behavior is unacceptable.
Now imagine if we took a different approach and tried to keep the argument private. What if we went to that other person, and we tried to reason with that person with no one else around? Yes, there are some who are going to be angry with us no matter what we do because we have the audacity to disagree with them. There’s nothing we can do in those cases. But for some folks, because they see us trying to keep things private, they are able to change their minds without anyone else knowing. And that may gain us their respect. It shows we care. It shows that it’s not us being right that’s so important, but that the right thing is decided. And then we have a chance to cultivate a relationship, not damage it. So if we do need to argue with someone, it’s better to try and do so privately. Perhaps then our logic and our reasons will be more acceptable and we end the argument having come a little closer together, rather than forcing ourselves apart.
Like I said, this is an area I need to work on. I have to work on when to argue and where to argue. I know this is a weakness in my life and I’ll be working on it over the next few months, the next few years, and truthfully until either Christ returns or He calls me home. But I think it’s an important area to work on. I don’t want folks to automatically dismiss what I have to say because I’m quick to argue. I would rather they pause when I bring up an opposing view, knowing that I wouldn’t choose to make a stand unless it was something I thought was important and significant. But it starts by me wanting to change and going to the Father for help. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.