I Gave Up on Arguing

8:00 AM

Yesterday I woke up to a notification that a smart online friend of mine responded on Facebook and on his personal blog to one of my posts on modesty. He disagreed with my conclusions, and his group of friends rallied to his support like my readers had rallied to mine. For a brief second I considered responding. Then I remembered that I'd given up on arguing. 

There comes a point where an argument means literally nothing. When two people disagree and want the other person to agree with them, the conversation comes to a standstill. Nobody crosses the bridge when two people approach it from both sides and refuse to budge ground. That's a sign to stop talking and agree to disagree. 

I can't believe I'm saying this -- agree to disagree. It seems like I'm surrendering to relativity, like I'm failing to defend the truth. "Let's agree to disagree" used to imply to me "It doesn't matter what you believe! I don't care! You don't need to care either!"

I've changed my mind on the implication of that phrase. It actually acknowledges the importance of truth. Truth is so important that it should only be considered with understanding and care, not bapped back and forth like a ping pong ball between Scripture verse paddles. It also acknowledges the reality of how people change their minds and the importance of faith. 

In my experience, those who argue most strongly believe in something. If someone engages me in an argument and starts pushing back, that tips me off that I'm not dealing with someone who's merely curious and open to discovering the truth. She believes she's already discovered the truth. And if she believes something, it means she places faith in it as an important part of her overarching structure of belief. That's not something to just kick out of place during an impromptu late-night argument.

Several weeks ago, a friend out-of-blue invited me to dinner and asked me about my beliefs on the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. I had no problem sharing my opinion, but it quickly developed into not merely hearing what I had to say but wanting me to believe what he had to say about what he confidently knew to be true. In the end, he asked me, bewildered, "None of the verses I showed you makes you at all interested in changing your mind? You just rattled off responses and hardly considered what I had to say."

"No, not really," I apologized. "I've already studied this issue for years and come to my conclusions. Look, in the end, we've got to believe what we've got to believe."

He didn't like that answer. To be honest, a few years ago I wouldn't have liked that answer. But the reality is that in the end we must cling to what we believe to be true, even if someone else gives a good opposing belief. I have read many great, logical, Scriptural arguments for many different beliefs. I benefited from understanding those perspectives, and I respect those who hold a good, logical, Scriptural belief even if it differs from mine. At the same time, I am still compelled to believe the great, logical, Scriptural argument I find most convincing. 

Truth doesn't exist in this intellectual vacuum to be debated back and forth. Truth is Christ. He's meant to be adored. He's meant to transform my life. If I'm willing to say a belief is true, then it's attached to my life and my spirituality in some way. When someone presses me to believe something differently, he's not pressing against a little logical part of my mind. He's pushing against the weight of my entire concept of spirituality. If I refuse to budge, that's why. I believe what I must believe is true regardless of whether other people feel compelled to believe the opposite. 

This isn't close-minded, however. While I no longer wish to argue as much as I once did, I still wish to understand. I love discussing. I love other opinions. I love hearing what people believe in a less high-stakes situation as feeling pushed to change my mind and admit that I'm wrong. The Holy Spirit often changes my mind and heart when I listen to someone laying out what he believes, maybe entirely unaware that I believe differently. Just the mere proclamation of truth is powerful enough to change hearts. 

I'm not here to change hearts. I can't. I've tried. I'm really bad at it. I only want to present what I believe is true and allow the Holy Spirit to do the pushing and shoving. More importantly, I want to believe what I believe to be true. On the internet, I want to preach to myself. I want to change my heart, not other people's. Even though there are a million and one opinions on the internet, I want to make sure that I am not the wrong person -- because I am the only person whose mind I can change. 

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8 impressions

  1. "I want to change my heart, not other people's."

    Boom! Nailed it. I have to say, I climbed into your same boat some time ago. It's easy to pick an open-minded person who is willing to understand and learn, not just push their agenda through their opinion. They aren't defensive (because they don't have anything to prove), they listen (not beat you over the head with their opinion until you're unconscious), and they don't attack (using those delightful adjectives such as "heretic", "sinner" or "ignorant so-and-so"). People who aren't open to the fact they could be wrong are usually pretty easy to spot - and avoid - after a short period of time in their company. Honestly, you gotta choose carefully what hills you're willing to die on, and everyone will recognize what those hills are in their own time. Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

    (Also felt I should sort of introduce myself - I've been a semi-lurker for a while through a friend, Elizabeth Kirkwood. I've always said I need to follow your blog sometime because I've always liked and related to your posts, and me being the procrastinator I am, have only just done it. So hi! I'm officially not a stalker anymore. XD)

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    1. By the looks of it, this blog will greatly benefit from all your thoughts!! I'm excited you've taken that big step to de-lurk! :D

      Your comment made me think about how important it is to not only pick the hills you're willing to die on, but also consider the time, place, and with whom you're "fighting." Arguing with closeminded people is probably comparable to casting pearls before swine, to be honest, though the Holy Spirit (praise Him!!) can thankfully use any conversation to get through our thick skulls!!

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    2. Exactly right!! And I think that's where experience in arguing with close-minded people comes handy: you learn to discern what hills are worth dying on and for whom. Sometimes it is actually worth it to "go there" with someone, because they could honestly learn from what you have to say. But if you can spot someone who's out looking for a good argument with no worthwhile outcome, you can save your dying for another hill.

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    3. Be careful for whom you die. I like it. ;)

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  2. This is so good. I used to argue on the internet. Zealously. ;) Somehow I felt like it validated my opinion or proved that I actually believed something for myself. Actually, it doesn't prove any of that. As I've realized that I can believe what I want to believe (not required to believe something because close associations do) and the way I ultimately "validate" those beliefs is ultimately by living by them (not arguing about them)--wow, it transforms so much about the way I seek for truth and the way I understand truth. :)

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    1. Whoa. That's really profound, Amy...letting your life argue for your beliefs before you start arguing for them online. I need to put that into practice.

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