Confrontation, in my book, has always ranked right up there with real fun stuff – going to the dentist or perhaps poking myself in the eye with a sharp stick. I expend a fair amount of energy trying to prevent it or avoid it.
I grew up in an authoritarian family, and my father had some what they call "anger management issues" these days. I learned very early on to avoid the hot zone.
I also experienced an (unrelated to the above) terrible act of family violence. Among many other life changing affects, it tranformed my avoidance of conflict into more of a phobia.
Just the thought of arguing makes my stomach turn. There are some discussions I just won't have because of the potential for conflict. I can force myself to do it if I really feel I need to, though. My position at work requires me to participate in technical discussions that sometimes disinigrate into arguments. If I want to get what I consider the best position heard, I sometimes have to fight for it. Sometimes I will, sometimes I am unable. It's a limiting factor for my career, but that's been okay with me.
I do force myself far beyond any other situation when it comes to doing the right thing for my children in maintaining consistent rules and discipline at home. My daughter is a natural born lawyer and has a never ending supply of arguments why she should be able to do what she wants to do, and she will use every trick in the book to get it. So I persevere more than I would. Sometimes it comes down to ugly conflict. I do it for them, but it has been a real struggle.
Last night, my friend Alexander* and I met some friends from another website we hang out at. Paulina* I had met once before, and have had a natural easying going relationship with her. She brought her boyfriend Craig*. I know him through the site, but not well, and this was the first time I was meeting him. Alexander had met him before, and warned me he was a big personality – very loud and opinionated.
We started off a bit awkwardly, but Craig started bringing up fairly interesting subject to discuss. He said that he and his friend always hung out on Thursday nights, discussing and debating the big topics – politics, gender, philosophy, media, etc. Apparently he really wanted to get our conversation going in the same vein, because he started baiting the table, stating positions analogous to what you would see from a troll in forums. Normally, I just refuse to get into these kinds of discussions. However, because I am trying to think less of what *I* want and more of what other people need, I tried to consider that this seems fun to him, and I will try to make him comfortable, so okay, I'll play. Plus, I've been studying the basic principles of logic, so perhaps there was a little urge to test out my wings with some friendly debate.
I'll admit – he got a heated debate started when we stated that women always play games, and men never do. Harumph.
The details of the conversation that ensued are irrelevant. But the important thing is that as I started to deconstruct his position using the few principles I've studied thus far, I started to see how he was coming from a morally relativistic viewpoint. And oh hey! I knew something about this! And I knew why that was bad.
I found myself starting to defend absolute truth and Christianity in short order. I prayed to the Father for an emergency dispatch of the Holy Spirit, because I was going to need it!
Now, I've only just begun my study, and there are so many things to learn, but it's so amazing how clear the fundamental truth of the matter has become to me, and how incredibly important. I can't really remember all the things I said over the course of the debate that followed, but Alexander told me later I represented my position and Christianity very well. He was astonished at how I remained composed and calm even when Craig was getting pretty personal in his arguments. There were many things I had to say that I didn't know the answer to, but it felt so good to be confident in the answers I did know. I had something for him to consider.
I prayed to keep my ego out of the discussion, and keep myself gentle and respectful. I don't know that I succeeded completely, but I do know that it was far, far more than I could have ever done before, and certainly not something I would have or could have done on my own. Especially towards the end of the conversation, he took two final swipes:
First, he said that if I were a Christian, he couldn't convince me of anything because I would always come back with faith as an answer. To this, I pointed out that the number of my arguments that were based on faith during our entire conversation were exactly zero. I asked him to give me an example of one that I had not based in history or reason, and he could not. I honestly think that surprised him.
Second, as we were wrapping up and calling a truce, he was trying to mollify Paulina, who apparently felt a little ignored and upset at the conversation. (I do feel bad for that part, and I will have to call her this morning to apologize.) Craig stated that this was all in fun – that I had made good arguments, and that if were honest, I would concede his points. I asked him at that point (nicely) did he just state that I was being dishonest? That I was lying? The amazing thing is that he denied it right away! He said point blank that he had not said that. Of course, Paulina and Alexander jumped in and told him, yes indeed, you just did say that. We all laughed, but it wasn't very comfortable.
Alexander and I dropped Craig and Paulina off at their hotel and went out for some coffee so I could recover from the stress of the conflict. He knows me pretty well, and was there to listen and make me laugh at stupid things.
I don't know that I've made any difference in Craig's opinion, but this discussion validated some things I have been thinking, even moreso than I ever would have suspected.
- Jesus is making a HUGE difference in my life. (Yay!)
- Apologetics is really, really important for my own faith.
- Apologetics is really, really important for talking to other people in ordinary ways.
- I'm happier than I've ever been.
Life is good. Thank You, Father.