For three years in High School, I participated in the Debate Team. I loved it. Does that mean I argued with bunches of people? No, I'm terrible at it. I did Impromptu speeches, Orations, Storytelling, and Prose/Poetry readings. I basically talked a lot when I went to tournaments. I chickened out of actually debating with anyone, and I admired my teammates who could. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot about public speaking.
I may be biased because I spent three years surrounded by arguments, but I believe arguing is good for you.
Now, I know the word Argument has negative connotations. In order to keep everyone happy, many people avoid arguments and disagreements. I know from experience that arguments, if you understand what they are, can leave participants feeling satisfied, educated, and enlightened.
So, if you want to talk to someone about your two differing opinions, you have three options.
In an argument, both parties present their opinions and their reasoning for believing it and evidence for it. They also have an opportunity to ask critical questions about their opponent's stance and evidence, as well as time to defend themselves and respond to questions. Both parties have to come into an argument knowing the terms and conditions of this discussion, and end it without holding grudges or wanting to have the last say.
A fight is very different from an argument. A fight often happens unexpectedly or occurs when an argument's rules are violated. The tone and atmosphere is dark, negative, angry, defensive, and rushed. Instead of presenting evidence or asking fact based questions, participants attack the other side, the opponent's character, and the opponent's intelligence. It's about winning at all costs, even if that means they attack something that isn't the topic up for debate.
|See. It's a table. (Visual pun!)|
But there is a third option. In a discussion, participants bring their opinions and ideas to the table, present them in a calm and fair atmosphere, and occasionally swallow their need to be right in order to listen to the other. Elder Zwick spoke about these kinds of communications. "The writer of Proverbs counsels, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). A "soft answer" consists of a reasoned response--disciplined words from a humble heart. It does not mean we never speak directly or that we compromise doctrinal truth. Words that may be firm in information can be soft in spirit."
My rule of thumb is religions are discussed, politicians have arguments, and the internet is for fights and flame wars. And blogs.
It is okay to have an argument, but it is a skill to hold yourself back while simultaneously defending your position. Jeffrey R. Holland said, "Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but
defend them." We should not be afraid to bring up our beliefs in discussions and conversations because we have the skills and knowledge to present and convince others of them. We also have the Spirit on our side to help us keep an atmosphere of peace and love for others. More than anything, have charity for those you speak to, no matter who they are; no one will care how much you know if they don't know how much you care.
For further tips on discussing your beliefs, read this article from The New Era.
Remember: Sometimes there is a place for silence. Even Jesus held His tongue when He knew there was no purpose in speaking.