I used to be capable of debating subjects indefinitely, ‘sticking to my guns’ (that phrasing, I now realise, familiar to all, clearly defines debate as argument as combat). It was hugely important to me to ‘win’ and ‘conquer’, especially in matters with some relation to morality and conscience. This isn’t a man thing; I’ve met many women who act the same way – doggedly pursuing an aim to convince others that, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’.
I’ve realised, though I can’t pin down exactly when, that there’s no point to doing it much of the time because my opinion and others’ opinions are often set in stone – immovable. When I know I’m open to changing my mind, when I acknowledge there’s room for me to accommodate a different perspective and change my position, then I’ll still debate but I’m more attuned to the idea of listening being far more important than speaking (or, in the case of online communications, my typing is less the focus for me than what someone else is typing).
Mental and physical energy in people is finite. We tire and need to sleep; we hunger and need to eat. Boredom and frustration can be signals that our energies are low and we need to feed our bodies and minds rather than plod on with arguments and debates that won’t change us or anyone else in a given situation. That’s when we truly win by knowing when to turn and walk away; step away from the keyboard; put the tablet or smartphone down; block the very worst of persistent idiots on social networks; shun the company of those whose views are objectionable to us.
Increasingly I spend time with people who don’t necessarily hold the same views as me on every subject but feed me nevertheless with respect, tenderness, love and understanding. I am, in many ways, becoming more of a hippy in my mindset as I get older and less inclined to argue.
Debate is a useful tool for reaching conclusions on what to do about any given topic, from what colour to paint a wall to how best to help a community. Only when entered into in a spirit of cooperation, though, knowing there is a need to reach consensus before action. It’s said that together we are stronger, and this is true – sometimes – but there are many occasions when standing apart from others makes us more empowered, knowing that, actually, this is when I walk alone and away, and am better off doing so.
I’m confident enough in the views I hold and the actions I take to no longer be interested in changing the minds of others. Go change yourselves, if you want to and you should – but ultimately, if you’re hateful or angry or vicious, you can deal with your own misery and indigestion. You’re not going to pass it on to me and I’m not going to allow you to ruin my day. I can see you’re an asshole, possibly an irredeemable one but that’s irrelevant because I have no inclination to even try to help you make your life better when it’s obvious you don’t want to learn and grow. I, on the other hand, in many ways do recognise I need to learn and grow, so I surround myself with those who, like me, don’t try to teach but are teachers nonetheless, leading by example with kindness and compassion.
If a person comes to me wanting help I’m in a position to give, I usually will. If someone genuinely seeks to understand my position on any subject, I’ll explain why I think and act as I do. Otherwise, forget it. Go ahead and build your own prison. Make those walls high and arm those weapons on the battlements. I won’t be fighting with you today. I’m too busy loving and being loved – because, as Will Young sings so beautifully in his cover of an old classic, what the world needs now is love, sweet love, for everyone.
Don’t indulge in anger, conflict and hate. There are enough of these poisons in the world. Gravitate instead towards those who either love like you do or will show you how to love freely. Nurture compassion and seek out joy. Take pleasure from making other people smile and feel appreciated. Listen. Act with grace and humility. Begin your journey to happiness that comes not from possessions but from being a light in the world. Do these things because you know, deep down, that acting and thinking negatively never gave anyone a better life, and never will.
Thanks for reading. Have a really good day.