When I think of a situation where two people argue, I think of hurtful words and pain. I think of regretful things said and trains of thought driven too far. I think of never-ending feeds under a post on Facebook. I think of old friends seeing me as a caricature of a Christian rather than a full-fledged person.
In short, I don’t see arguments as a good thing.
Buster Benson seems determined to change my mind.
In his book, Why are we yelling? Benson argues three truths about disagreement. Three “gifts of disagreement.” (These come from page 29 of the 2019 version of the book.)
The gift of disagreement
Truth 1: Arguments aren’t bad. They’re signposts to issues that need our attention.
Every time Ashley and I experience conflict, it represents a point where we don’t see eye to eye. The truth is when we argue it’s a sign of something important that we will we both care about. Or it’s a sign that one of us is merely tired and saying stupid things.
I can certainly see the truth of the statement above worn out in my relationship with Ashley. Disagreements indeed point out areas that need work. If I learn to see this throughout the rest of my life, I wonder how many more issues I could solve?
Truth 2: Arguments aren’t about changing minds. They are about bringing minds together.
Two beings have the power to change other people’s minds: God and the other people themselves.
This truth touches a painful reality as a pastor. No matter how unforgettable I make my sermon, the choice to change entirely remains in the minds of my listeners.
That said, I love when minds collide. When people talk and open up, magic happens! That’s one of the reasons the church community works so well!
When people share minds and hearts honestly and openly, disagreements happen. I’ve seen it. Real sharing really can’t happen without some friction. Yet, the magic of community doesn’t happen unless we share our minds and hearts.
Truth 3: Arguments don’t end. They have deep roots and will pop back up again and again, asking us to engage with them.
This truth makes me think of icebergs. So much of an argument lurks beneath the surface. When Ashley and I disagree about technology or finances, our words represent a wealth of experiences and history beneath the surface. We might set something aside today, but some other issue or experience brings it right back up again.
These three truths have struck a chord in me. I look forward to reading the rest of his argument about arguments. I’ll try to share it here.