“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.”
2 Timothy 2:23 NLT
I cannot count the number times I have failed obeying 2 Timothy 2:23. In fact, I once had a superior describe me as this; “She tends to argue but when she argues it’s because she’s usually right.” Of course hearing such statement brings an increase in pride and an inflation in ego, at least for me it did. It also made it justifiable for me to continue to argue. After all, it’s pointless to argue if you’re wrong but if you know you’re right then you should argue, right? WRONG!!!
Arguing one’s point is ungodly and counterproductive. Arguments rarely end in a positive manner with friendships or relationships still intact nor do they draw people closer together. In fact, the book of Proverbs gives us two examples of how arguments and angry words do the complete opposite. In Chapter 18, verse 19, we read that “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.” Proverbs Chapter 26 verse 4 warns “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.” I personally have lost a handful of relationships after engaging in hurtful arguments. One in particular ended over very different opposing political views. Another took a long hiatus because of multiple mini arguments over subject matter that I don’t even recall the details of now.
In the category of politics, I have argued about abortion, women’s marches, equality, presidential candidates, racism, etc. I have argued about religious beliefs both with believers and non-believers. Unfortunately, I have argued about far too many less trivial things also. If I listed all those this post would never end. I have a fierce personality and my mouth tends to start running before my brain has time to keep me quiet. I’m slowly learning to practice pausing and thinking before speaking. But there are days I am making very slow progress if any at all. HAHA!
Ironically, I recently found myself tiptoeing into two separate arguments on social media. One was an anti-education post that completely goes against my beliefs and values in education. The other one was actually an effort to help someone avoid arguing and turned into a debate about arguing. I could feel my insides just getting fired up about both posts and especially regarding comments made to me by the posters. I could mentally see my platform in front of me and a fully prepared speech on the tip of my tongue that would open with, “First of all…” I’ve been told I should be a good lawyer because I definitely can argue well. Not that that’s something to brag about. But, I also felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Don’t go down that rabbit hole” and I knew that meant something like, “this is not my circus and they are not my monkeys. Do not exhaust your energy engaging in an argument with either of them. Surprisingly, I actually listened this time (usually I’m too fired up to listen to God’s gentle promptings and fight the battles in my own flesh.) and opted to take a weekend hiatus from that social media site to reset my priorities. I also deleted the comments I had already posted.
I spent a good part of my evening thinking about the concept of going down the rabbit hole. This ideology is related to story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice was enticed to go down that rabbit hole and entered a world full of all kinds of crazy abnormalities. I started relating some of the characters Alice encountered to those we engage with on social media and how that all ties in with arguing. Social Media is the universal source of arguing these days isn’t it?
Just like in Wonderland, in any social media argument you will encounter the Queen of Hearts whose view is inevitably “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”. Everything is black and white in their minds and they’re solutions are typically punitive. Then there’s the Mad Hatter who’s certifiably crazy and makes comments that leaves most readers scratching their heads or feeling slightly disturbed. Of course there’s the White Rabbit person who either has bad timing with their remarks, or is ever fretful in their commentaries. And what media argument would be complete without the Cheshire Cat tapping into their multiple personalities and fueling the fire by secretly taking dual sides or talking about others behind their backs. The Cheshire Cat characters are definitely the most toxic as they are the pot stirrers who keep the discord going all while looking like they are the best friend to all parties involved.
Admittedly I have played the role of the Queen, the Hatter and the white rabbit on far too many occasions. Worse yet, I know I’ve been a Cheshire Cat a time or two also. Not necessarily with malice intent or as an effort to destroy a relationship but I’ve kept the embers of anger, hurt and conflict burning by dwelling on the argument and discussing it with others who weren’t a part of it. I’ve ignored verses like Psalm 37:8 that tells us to stop being angry and turn from our rage and Ephesians 4:31 where we’re told to put away all malice, harsh words, brawling, etc. Malice, harsh words, and brawling are all descriptors of arguing.
Fortunately for Alice, going down the rabbit hole didn’t bring total disaster. After all, a Disney movie usually has a happy ending. In the real world however, when we choose to go down the rabbit hole of arguing, the only ending we get is one that results in an ending of a relationship, perhaps even an ending of mutual respect you once shared. Even if you feel you’ve “won” the argument, is it worth celebrating if it cost you the relationship? That raises the very question of where we place our value. Is it more valuable to be right or is it more valuable to have relationship?
Personally I believe that relationship holds far more value than being right. I’ve learned this the hard way. For example, I have a best friend whom I rarely agree with. The only thing we probably truly have in common is a love for Jesus, family and our friendship. Everything else we tend to be opposites on. In the early stages of our friendship we had a few arguments. Only one that I can recall ended up in no communication for two weeks. For a friendship that talked daily, two weeks was a very long time. During that time frame I reflected a lot on what was said and actually considered ending the friendship. But I loved this person too much to never have them in my life again. So I bent my pride and reached out to her. It wasn’t easy. Neither of us believed we were wrong. But we both could agree that we shared words that hurt one another and we could apologize for that. We also both chose to forgive and move past it because our friendship was far too valuable to throw away.
I wish I could say that was the case for other relationships in my life but sadly, there are some that the argument outweighed the relationship and that person is no longer a part of my life. Those were times when the offender refused to apologize for attacking my character or wanted continue to argue. I felt it necessary to emotionally protect myself by no longer having them in my life. I still love them, but I simply choose to love them from a distance. There are times you have to set boundaries in your life to protect your emotional well-being. These situations aren’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. They are simply about choosing what kinds of behaviors we will allow in our lives and being able to cut off anything that is toxic or will undermine the character God defines for us.
Please know I am not saying we shouldn’t have opinions or strong convictions. The Bible is full of beliefs we as Christ followers are to cling to. We should never compromise our belief systems. But when talking to someone who opposes us, we should do what Jesus did. He didn’t argue. He had the spiritual wisdom to recognize a trap and he never went down the rabbit hole. Time and again the Pharisees would ask Him questions to entice him into a debate. Each time Jesus disappointed them. There were times Jesus wouldn’t even answer them (think of the woman caught in adultery when Jesus ignored the Pharisees and drew in the sand.) When He chose to answer them, He would use one liners like “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Or “Render unto Caesar what is Caesars’s.) Other times He spoke in parables to make His point. Often times His own disciples didn’t understand what He was saying but Jesus didn’t debate them either.
There were also times he avoided his naysayers altogether. But here’s a list of what He didn’t do:
- Jesus never said, “I’m right, you’re wrong.”
- He never became defensive nor did He defend Who He was. By this I mean He never engaged in a debate or argument about Him being the Son of Man. He stated it time and again but He didn’t argue with anyone who disagreed.
- Jesus also never defend His character. Jesus’ enemies were right in their own eyes and there were many who slandered Him for Who He presented Himself to be and the ministry He led.
- He didn’t have a publicist write a formal speech to address His naysayers. He just kept on doing His thing and ignored the Queens of Hearts, Mad Hatters, White Rabbits and Cheshire Cats of His day.
Time and again the Bible tells us, we are to be just like Jesus. Which means, instead of arguing, we can choose to ignore. Instead of debating, we can choose to pray. When someone entices us into an argument, we can choose to be like Jesus which may mean not responding to them at all.
Before you post something that you know will open up a rabbit hole into Argueland, pause and ask yourself is it worth the energy you’re going to waste defending your opinion? Better yet, don’t post it. Post a verse, a fun picture or a joke instead. Social media platforms don’t change the world anyway. They simply create a greater division that already exists because people are too focused on being right and less focused on being in relationship and fellowship with one another.
We are all entitled to our opinions and belief systems. We are not entitled to share or impose them on someone else. If Jesus didn’t force His beliefs on anyone during His ministry, why do we feel so entitled to do it now-especially on social media? I can’t promise I won’t fall prey to another argument but for now, I am choosing to listen to the Holy Spirit and not go down the rabbit hole. People change the world by praying and being Christ like not by arguing or posting controversial things on Social Media.