Yelling Doesn't Win Arguments
A Thoughtful Word from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Do you have memories, as I do, of a conversation something like this from your childhood?
"Did not!" (Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse)
"Did so!" (As above)
"I DID NOT!" (Same song, third verse, a whole lot louder and a whole lot worse)
"YOU DID TOO, AND I'M TELLING MOTHER!" (As above)
Nobody won those arguments, no matter how loudly we yelled. Yelling doesn't solve problems
Walt and I competed in collegiate debate tournaments when we were in school, and I learned something I desperately needed to learn. Each year we were assigned the topic the colleges in our league would debate. One year it was about free world trade. Another, that labor have a share in the management of industry. Another, that we establish a federal world government. Of course they were inflammatory issues, and I always had strong convictions about them, usually against the affirmative side!
But the rule in collegiate debate is that you must debate both sides. It seemed hypocritical to me to stand up one hour and spout off all the good stuff on the affirmative side, and in the next hour defend as vehemently the negative side. But I learned something truly important: there may be valid reasoning on both sides of any disagreement. Until I learned to really listen to someone I disagreed with, I could not hope to understand their viewpoint. Until I did, we couldn't find a mutually satisfying solution to the problem.
That is not the way we handle controversial issues in our volatile society now. Yelling at each other hasn't helped. Shouting slogans doesn't fix anything. Waving signs and screaming invectives hasn't helped us find fair solutions. Only by careful honesty in communication and genuine thoughtfulness will we find the answers to the terrible problems that divide our country today.
To listen and learn takes grace and humility, not cockiness. I remember looking at my assessments from the judges after a tournament at the University of Illinois. I'd gotten great scores, but nearly every judge had written on my assessment the word irrefutable. Wow! I thought smugly, my arguments were unanswerable! I preened myself. It wasn't until later I realized they were telling me that I had pronounced the word irrefutable wrong! Humiliating indeed!
The second, equally-important lesson I learned in collegiate debate is that anger and disrespect make it impossible to think clearly. Anger clouds our judgment. Put-downs and epithets may give us satisfaction, but they don't help people to change. Here's how God says it:
Dear friends, be quick to listen,
slow to speak,
and slow to get angry.
Your anger can never make things right in God's sight. James 1:20
OK, Libby, it's time to stop yelling and start listening. Might be that God wants you to do that too?
Facing a New Year: Stay True to the Course
A New Year's Resolution by Elizabeth Rice Handford
Another famous, ambiguous quote by Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Huh? Yogi, you didn't tell me which fork to take! If I choose the wrong fork, I'll end up in the wrong place.
It's easy to choose the "right" fork when flying an airplane. You choose your destination. You plot what your compass heading should be. You set your compass to that heading. If you keep it there, you should land where you intended to.
But if you make an error plotting your heading, even by two tiny degrees, it can make a terrible difference.
Volcano Mount Erebus in Antarctica
In November, 1979, sightseers caught a flight from New Zealand to Antarctica on a DC 10. It was scheduled to spend a few hours over the Antarctic before returning in the evening. But an operations clerk entered the wrong heading they should take. The pilots descended to a lower altitude so passengers could see better. They didn't know their heading would put them directly into Mount Erebus, an active volcano 12,000 feet high. By the time the plane's instruments warned of danger, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the mountain, killing everyone on board. It was only a tiny, 2o error, but it sent the doomed plane 28 miles off course, and 257 people died.
If I hope to live a productive, God-honoring life, I must set the right compass heading. But I also need to be aware that pressure from others can easily push me off course. I do have a trustworthy compass: the Word of God. It gives me the correct course heading for my life. And it warns me not to drift either to the right or the left.
Only be strong and very courageous,
that you may observe to do according to all the law
which Moses My servant commanded you;
Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left,
that you may prosper wherever you go.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth,
but you shall meditate in it day and night,
that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.
For then you will make your way prosperous,
and then you will have good success.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage;
do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
I do long to live a productive, Christ-honoring life. This promise from God assures me that in the coming year He will help me stay true to the course He wants me to take.