How to Win an Argument
Last night, our daughter (kindergarten) told us she thought she was making people sad, that she wasn’t good but bad. She said that her friends don’t want to be her friends anymore and they don’t want to play with her. Naturally, we were just a tad concerned. She is a bright, sweet, generous soul who loves people and wants to be friends with everyone. So what could be making this happen? As it turns out, it seems to be just be one “friend” in her class that is the issue. They had an argument over the pronunciation of a word they are learning in Spanish. Thus, said friend is “being mean” and doesn’t want to play with our girl anymore.
We had to dig a little on this one. If you’re a parent, or have anything to do with young kids at all (or maybe older “kids”, too…) you know how tenuous their “truth” can be. The perspective of a six-year-old is not exactly gospel truth! As we discussed being kind over being right, treating others with love even if they’re wrong, and asking God to help us with the words we say, I began to see what may potentially be a problem with our sweet girl. Some might call it being a know-it-all; it might border on goody-two-shoes; it’s definitely a propensity to want to make everything right – even trying to correct anything – and anyone – around.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know she has no desire to be unkind. She simply doesn’t understand that telling others they’re wrong – whether it’s how to say “Azul” to where to sit at Circle Time – is foolish arguing. It’s a control issue, though at six she doesn’t understand that. She just knows there is right and there is wrong, and we should try to do right – and, typical to the human race, she thinks everyone else should see it that way too!
So we had our discussion and I think she understood – enough for now, anyway. I see the potential problem in her. But I see it in me, too. And it’s not potential – it’s definite. Just like my girl wants to correct the “wrong”, so do I. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal; black and white, wrong and right. A perfectionist. A recovering control freak. Women may be especially prone to it. Built to multi-task, manage a home, and/or rock our career, we are, in many ways, built to control. (For a great book on this, check out “Let. It. Go.’ by Karen Ehman.)
But this post isn’t really about control; it’s about foolish arguments – of which I believe control is often, if not always, the root. Be honest with yourself. When you get into conflict, what really caused it? There are a million legitimate causes for disagreement, and these need to be sorted out. But how many of our “fights” are truly legit? We pick fights with our spouses because something else is bothering us. We criticize our kids because we ourselves have failed (and then we wonder why they argue about “Azul”… just sayin’.) We conflict with a coworker because they didn’t do it our way.
There is Truth to speak to all of this. Just a little research nearly overwhelmed me with all God has to say on this topic. I’ll try to break it down into just a few beautiful truths to remember.
Sometimes, you just need to let an argument go.
It’s nearly impossible to win a foolish argument, isn’t it? Sometimes, we just need to let it go. This may mean “agreeing to disagree”, or it may mean disengaging completely. The Bible says a lot about controlling our tongues, and it’s often about just keeping quiet. As hard as it is, do everything you can to avoid the argument in the first place – and when you can’t, you may need to let it go.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. ~ Proverbs 21:23
…charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. ~ 2 Timothy 2:14
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. ~ Titus 3:9
Apologize for hurting another person, even if you thought you were right.
This could be called “being the bigger person”. Most of the time, it’s not about being right over the other person; it should be about being right with them. The relationship trumps being right. The point here is that even if you’re in the right, the other person has been hurt (or at least perceives that they were hurt) – even if it wasn’t intentional. Care more about showing them love than about winning the argument.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~ Proverbs 15:1
Stand up for what is right, but do it gently.
We are called to stand for our faith, for good, for right. We’re even called to fight for it! But the Bible says to do this in love. Don’t give in to what’s wrong, but stand strong gently.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. ~ 1 Peter 3:14-16
Be good without being self-righteous.
Get off the soapbox, jump down from the pedestal, avoid holier-than-thou. Whatever we want to call it! We’ve all been there. This goes closely with the last point. Live a holy life, but live a humble life.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:14-21
Know the truth without knowing it all.
The Bible says a fool cares more about getting in his two cents than in truth and understanding. Imagine what a world it would be if we all sincerely strove to understand each other, regardless of opinions! It doesn’t matter if the other person is wrong or just has a different opinion – we can teach truth and express our own opinions in gentle love without steamrolling each other or becoming haughty know-it-alls.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. ~ Proverbs 18:2
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. ~ Romans 14:1
Being kind is more important than being right.
This is what it all boils down to. You may well be right; but if you’re not kind in being right, it won’t matter.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. ~ 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Ask God for the right thing to say.
God has given us the Holy Spirit; he is our guide, our teacher, our intercessor. He will give us the words to say – we have only to ask! If our speech is gracious, there will be no foolish arguments.
For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. ~ Matthew 10:20
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ~ James 4:1-3
and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. ~ 1 John 3:22