Musings

Dealing with Arguments and Difficult Issues

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My late-night internet clicking is never very helpful. I can follow a train of websites, searches, and discussion and find myself feeling not very enlightened. Instead, sometimes I feel sad, angry, or twisted-up inside. Sometimes I think about a problem too often, trying to come to some conclusion. I realize, though, that maybe the debates I think about aren’t the problem. It’s not that I don’t understand an issue, but that it’s too easy to judge and criticize others on both sides.

I don’t think we ever need to be contentious with one other. Often, we just need to let contentious issues alone until we are able to discuss them without being overwhelmed by negative emotions. I have found that often in arguments with family members and friends, the heated emotions of pride in wanting to be completely right and anger towards the other person for wanting the exact same thing led to hours of arguments over the smallest details.

We very much desire to know what is right. This desire is generally a good one. However, a less helpful and related desire is our desire to be right. This desire generally comes from pride and can lead to arguments and misunderstanding.

There are many issues out there that can become controversial. We do not always understand both sides and usually we are willing to head into a fight without first learning all we can. I have found that often the framework of a debate can blind us to the fact that we are not really disagreeing. It can lead to two opposing sides arguing over an answer to a question when the question itself is wrong. It can be helpful to realize our own assumptions we use and the limitations of our culture and our terminology.

While truth exists, we always view it from a limited vantage point of our own experience. We have to realize that other people have different experiences and that means they view things differently. If we understand those experiences, we can understand that person. Sometimes our fault isn’t about which side we take, but in choosing to judge other individuals without being charitable and understanding.

It’s not a bad thing to be quiet, to not take sides and to not voice your opinion. Sometimes, silence is the appropriate response.

We all will struggle at some time with doubt. It’s part of life, really. We should not judge people who struggle with doubts different than our own. While my friend may struggle with understanding one issue, I struggle with understanding a different one. For example, I have dealt with some emotional problems and at times, I doubted because I wondered why these problems couldn’t simply be removed from my life. I struggled to figure out how to deal with them. Others probably cannot fully understand my own personal doubts relating to this matter. For them, as an outsider, it may seem easy to understand and overcome. For me, though, it was a very real and personal struggle. Intellectual advice is not always helpful for a real and raw emotional problem. What does help is love and support.

While we do not have to tolerate sin and bad behavior, we must always remember both that we all sin and that that we all have the same divine potential.

At times we may be tempted to stop being friends with a person because some of their beliefs are very different than our own–even though overall, we still enjoy a positive friendship. This can occur when someone takes a stand on a particularly heated issue. But isn’t that unkind? While we still can believe and express what we think is right, we don’t need to judge someone for having a different opinion.

I find that I am most harsh on people who are similar to me: I think that they should think and feel the same way that I do. But this is unfair. I have seen sometimes when a famous person received intense backlash because the famous person did or say something that others did not feel was right. I myself have been tempted to stop following, to condemn, or further scrutinize good people who are in the public eye when they do or say something small that I myself don’t agree with–I forgot the whole picture. I find myself too eager to judge when I myself have my own struggles, my own faults, and my own pride. For some reason, we forget that the Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to others just as much as it applies to ourselves.

Trying to discover and stand for truth is a good thing, but sometimes emotions (and particularly pride) get in the way. Often we are left with a very narrow perspective, having forgotten all the good in favor of focusing on one issue that is not as significant or important as we have personally made it out to be. That is a hard and humbling thing to admit. Questions and doubts do not need to be ignored or pushed aside, but sometimes a lot of patience and time is needed for ourselves and others. We can’t understand everything right away. That’s okay. We shouldn’t give up on good and wonderful things for a single doubt and disagreement. This means we don’t have to give up on friendships, we don’t have to give up on faith, and we don’t have to give up on ourselves.

Charity is really important. It’s not simply being kind, though that is part of it. It’s not simply standing up for truth, though that is part of it too. Charity encompasses all that is good, and all that is good comes from Jesus Christ. It is difficult to argue when we fully remember Jesus and his example.

And the Atonement provides healing, comfort, and understanding. It provides strength and forgiveness. It can take away all those negative feelings and help us feel true peace.

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