Learn how to fight

Penticton Herald - - OPINION - TIM SCHROEDER

Years ago I read (the source is long for­got­ten) that cou­ples with strong mar­riages do not nec­es­sar­ily fight or ar­gue less than cou­ples in strug­gling mar­riages, rather they fight or ar­gue bet­ter. They have learned to dif­fer with each other with­out tak­ing cheap or fa­tal shots at their part­ner.

The rea­son for rais­ing this is­sue is that I have be­come in­creas­ingly ap­palled at the in­abil­ity of many in our cur­rent cli­mate to dis­agree with those who hold con­trast­ing views with­out vil­i­fy­ing or de­mean­ing them. I sus­pect it stems from a mis­guided push­back against the wave of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness that has swept over our so­ci­ety. The un­ac­cept­abil­ity of say­ing any­thing con­tro­ver­sial or that goes against cur­rent prac­tice has be­come so un­ten­able that many are re­spond­ing by throw­ing the baby out with the bath­wa­ter and are choos­ing to push back, voic­ing their po­si­tions with venom and rage.

There is ris­ing ev­i­dence of an in­abil­ity to dis­tin­guish be­tween the numb­ing, com­pro­mis­ing cur­rent of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and an hon­est dis­agree­ment re­spect­fully stated.

The easy ex­am­ples of this trend emerge from the po­lit­i­cal realm where what has been tak­ing place es­pe­cially south of the

bor­der is al­most in­com­pre­hen­si­ble. Truth and de­cency don’t even reg­is­ter on the gauge as op­po­nents seek to de­stroy each other.

Harder ex­am­ples come much closer to home. Twice re­cently I have re­ceived out­right hate mail from in­di­vid­u­als who dif­fer in po­si­tion to what they thought I said. One in­structed me that there would be a spe­cial place in hell re­served for me while an­other sug­gested I ought to be drowned in the deep­est part of Lake Okana­gan. I guess drown­ing me in a shal­low part wouldn’t be sat­is­fac­tory to him.

Need­less to say, con­ver­sa­tions of that na­ture have zero ben­e­fit. Ex­press­ing opin­ions in such ven­omous ways de­stroys any pos­si­bil­ity of hon­est, rea­soned di­a­logue. It also di­a­met­ri­cally op­poses the pos­ture taken by Je­sus of Nazareth.

One coach I had the priv­i­lege of learn­ing from in the art of hold­ing cru­cial con­ver­sa­tions sug­gested us­ing one care­fully worded ques­tion.

He would ask op­po­nents, “Is there any way I can dis­agree with your po­si­tion, in full re­spect, with­out be­ing la­belled big­oted or closed-minded?”

In other words, is the only sat­is­fac­tory out­come to our dis­cus­sion one where we must hold iden­ti­cal opin­ions or is there a way for us to re­spect­fully dis­agree with one an­other? If so, let’s find it.

Some of the is­sues fac­ing con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety are emo­tion­ally loaded and in ac­tual fact have very high stakes. The po­si­tion one takes on such is­sues ac­tu­ally mat­ters. That said, noth­ing jus­ti­fies treat­ing op­po­nents with venom and ha­tred.

The pos­ture of Je­sus was to love one’s en­e­mies. The pos­ture of Paul the Apos­tle was to cor­rect the wrong­doer gen­tly and humbly. Nei­ther Je­sus nor Paul was a com­pro­miser of truth nor were they prone to po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. They took clear stands on right and wrong.

How­ever, they did so mi­nus the ha­tred and guile ev­i­dent in much cur­rent ex­pres­sion. This was es­pe­cially true when they ad­dressed the sur­round­ing cul­ture. Their harsh­est lan­guage was re­served for sel­f­righ­teous re­li­gious lead­ers who were them­selves abus­ing oth­ers.

At the height of the cur­rent mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion and in the face of sev­eral high stakes de­bates about what is right and wrong we must learn to fight well.

Fail­ure to do so will in­volve losses on ev­ery side.

Tim Schroeder is pas­tor at Trin­ity Bap­tist Church in Kelowna. This col­umn ap­pears in Okana­gan Week­end.

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