I love nothing more than a good debate. And what I really like is when I win the debate. Unfortunately, sometimes a simple debate can turn into a raging argument.
I am knowledgeable in several areas. Not bragging. Simply a fact that I am like everybody, I know things about certain subjects. Unfortunately, what I know most is often under the taboo subjects of religion and politics.
Opinionated? Oh, yes.
The unceasing need to be right, heard, and agreed with? Most definitely.
This is my sin of pride. It is a sin deeply set in my inner most being, ready to make itself known at any time.
Several things have happened over the years which has increased my awareness of this sin and come to understand a better way.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Dallas Willard. The teachings were amazing, sometimes affirming, sometimes challenging, and often over my head. As useful as it was to be educated by Dr. Willard, the thing that has stood with me over time was my observation of how he conducted himself with me and with others. His patience, his humor, and his ability to make each person feel special in his connection with them, were a credit to his humility.
But one particular moment in the midst of a teaching still stands out to me as an example of dealing with pride.
During a discussion the room became agitated in response to one of his statements. Several people became involved in questioning his seemingly outrageous statement. Not once did Dr. Willard defend the statement, rather he tried to explain it more fully. The discussion could easily have gone into an argument, but he wouldn’t let it. After a time of back and forth, Dr. Willard said something to the effect of, “This is what my understanding is of this. You may have a different understanding, and that is okay.”
I was amazed. This man wrote several books. He was a well-respected professor of philosophy. Many influential people credit their spiritual growth to interactions with him, and he just graciously allowed the other people in the discussion opinions that differed with his own.
In my never-ending struggle to live my life as Jesus might live my life, I’ve taken particular notice of the stories of people’s debates with Jesus. Jesus often simply explained. He never demanded people agree with him. He only taught them and let them come to conclusions on their own. He had every right to harbor pride, perhaps get angry, and yet, he didn’t. Jesus wasn’t looking to win a debate, he was looking to win the hearts and souls of those he was with. (For example, see Matthew 15:21-28)
Early in our marriage, I argued a lot. My husband likes to debate, but he did not grow up with arguing like I did, so I needed to teach him how to do it. He still hasn’t mastered it so well. One time we were (well, I was) arguing and he said to me, “I know what you are saying, but I don’t agree with you.” That stopped me. I thought if he understood what I was saying then how could he not agree with me? I realized then: a great deal of what I expect from debates/arguments was having people come to my way of thinking. I noticed how my husband doesn’t care if people agree with him, he states facts and expects the facts to speak for themselves.
It’s taken awhile, but I think I’m finally at the place where I can understand that people disagreeing with me is a normal part of life, and this fact does not necessarily diminish me or them as a person. Just because someone hears my ideas, doesn’t mean they have to agree with my thoughts on a subject. We all come from different perspectives and contexts. We all are capable of coming to our own conclusions.
My sin of pride was less about the people and more about the winning. Those experiences have taught me that it is always about the relationship with the person and appreciating them for who they are rather than focusing on areas where we might disagree. Reacting in grace and humility never goes out of style.
I want to be like Dallas Willard and say, “this is the way I understand it.” And. Let. It. Go.
I want to be like Jesus and simply state facts, without argument.
And I want to be like my husband who doesn’t care if anyone agrees with him, he knows his truth.
Often, I have thought about this verse in regards to my own proclivity towards winning a debate, and it stops me in my tracks:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. ~2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV)
I am in a slow process of seeing my sin of pride redeemed. But it’s okay, because the Christian life is a journey, not a marathon.