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Reflection: Fight the Urge to Fight

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30 Don't argue with others for no reason when they have never done you any harm.

  • Proverbs 3:30 GNT

30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—when they have done you no harm.

  • Proverbs 3:30 NIV

I used to enjoy debate. In high school, I appreciated the art of it, the intellectual challenge, the use of creative argumentation, the need to think on your feet, and respond, both to the attacks you could see coming, and the ones you couldn’t.

When I participated in competitions, we faced teams that focused on speed reading evidence cards to score points, but that was never the game for me. I was always interested in thinking outside the box, on the spot, to make a uniquely strong case, and come up with the win.

Just lookin’ for my Perry Mason moment.

It was fun.

Over time, however, outside the parameters of tournaments with judges, debate became less fun.

Debate is a lost art. People rarely have exchanges of ideas that lead to greater understanding for either participants or audiences.

Arguments today seem to focus more on humiliating your opponent. We don’t talk to people ao much as at them, playing to our bases that will confirm we have won and revel in our infliction of maximum pain upon our enemy.

These debates are filled with rage, whether the topic is politics, or Beanie Babies. No matter what you have to say, someone else will tell you it’s the dumbest, most inconceivably offensive idea anyone has ever had. And your holding it, defines you, unfavorably, as a person.

Now, there is a different intensity to a fight that is intellectual, and a fight that is personal.

And the trollish practice of playing Devil’s Advocate for things you don’t believe, or have no stake in, dispassionately dissecting something that for someone else is personal, and sacred, is contemptible. It dabbles in matters that are life or death for someone else, for your own amusement.

But happens when we’re so tightly wound that everything seems like life or death?

What happens when we have so many chips on our shoulder that we feel like we need to kill someone else just to live?

These days, we often pick fights.

Many of us are not good at processing our anger. We don’t know what to do with it. So it builds. And then it comes out, inappropriately, at some random person, over some random issue.

And the people who receive our wrath have often done something, but they haven’t done the thousand things we unload on them for.

It’s Road Rage.

It’s Keyboard Rage.

It’s the culture of social media.

Anywhere we can safely unload, perhaps behind the protective barrier of a digital divide, or an armored vehicle, we do.

The insidious thing about venting is it is cathartic. Therapeutic. So it tends to become its own reward. Through social media, we find friends who share our particular triggers, and encourage us to pull them. We get likes for our rants and the dopamine spikes that come along with them. It becomes part of our shtick, a piece of our very identity.

And this brings us to the scripture.

The person the verse describes Is combative, even antagonistic. Accusation is their default posture.

They are not looking to solve problems or come to understandings. They are not looking to educate people about their impassioned beliefs.

They are looking for a fight.

Sometimes fighting is necessary. We need to state our case. We need to defend our cause. We need to do our part to right a wrong.

Sometimes, however, we just want to fight. We want to take our frustrations with the world, and point them in a particular direction. And if fighting is something we are good at, we may find a particular outlet in it.

The person who argues for no reason, or hurls accusations pre-emptively is not responding to any provocation. They are working something out.

And that is both unfair and dangerous.

It’s unfair, by definition, because the person you are attacking has done nothing to you. You are not settling a score. You are just scoring, illegally. The whole thing is a technical foul.

It’s dangerous, because you don’t know who you’re attacking. You don’t know what powder keg of slights and offenses they are managing. You don’t know what will happen when you light the fuse.

Just because we are as angry as we’ve ever been, doesn’t mean we won’t encounter someone far more angry. Or just more dangerous, whether they’re angry or not.

It’s a bad thing to go picking fights and run into a person who can’t wait to have one.

In the Movie “Four Brothers”, Lieutenant Grene (Terrance Howard) tells the Mercer family, “You keep knocking on the devil’s door long enough, and sooner or later someone is gonna answer you.”

Just because we can fight, doesn’t mean we should.

Walking away might not be the worst thing we can do.

(Photo Credit: Pixabay)

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