James 4:1-3 – What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives. (NIV 1984)
Regrets, I’ve Had A Few – Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. (Ambrose Bierce)
But Then Again, Too Few To Mention? – When faced with pressure and strong opinions, instead of adding constructive dialogue, we often look for ways to win, punish or keep the peace.
Win – We may attempt to correct the “facts,” quibble over details, and/or point out the flaws in others’ points of view, with a view to winning. The truth at all costs (even if we happen to be right) loses out over our truth at all costs. And the costs could be very high in terms of broken relationships.
Punish – As our passion rises, we may move from merely wanting to win to also punishing those who disagree. It is no longer good enough to win, we must make the other(s) regret challenging our truth. Why would we want to vindictively punish someone we care about? Down deep (in the heart of the matter) we don’t. But on the surface (in the heat of the matter) we do. And the costs could be very high in terms of the inability to eventually repair broken relationships.
Clam Up – Then there is the other extreme, we become so focused on keeping the peace and avoiding conflict, that we go to silence. We avoid making waves. As a result, we accept the certainty of bad results (which includes no resolution). We don’t have enough trust in the relationship to take the risk of hurt feelings. And the costs could be very high in terms of relationships that do not grow.
Heart – When any of these begin to occur (win, punish, clam up), we need to refocus. What are my true motives? What do I really want, for myself, for others, and for the relationship? This helps us regain our bearings, the “North Star” on our moral compass. We need to clarify what we really want and what we really don’t want. People skilled at moving through crucial, high-stakes issues start with the heart, in order to keep their motives pure and to stay focused. They do not allow themselves to become motivated by winning at all costs, punishing or avoiding the issue altogether. (Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.)
My Musings – We won’t always win the argument, sometimes because we are on the wrong side of it. But even if we are right, we should take care that we don’t win the argument and lose the heart.
My Advice – Start with the heart and stay with the heart. Do it “His” way.