I like to argue. It’s not exactly a positive character trait, but when you’re good at it, it’s something you tend to do. In college, all the career placement tests told me to be a lawyer. I ran far away from that one and chose the much more lucrative career of teacher.
But with the desire and skill to argue comes some pretty annoying downsides.
The main one is when I argue for my own defense, what many people wisely call “being defensive.” If someone calls me on a sin, I have about 200 arguments at the ready to combat the accusation…and most of them are pretty dang good. This knee jerk reaction causes me to avoid that still, small voice that’s saying “Hey, she’s got a point.”
But when I respond defensively, I’m not really fooling anyone. Because if there’s anything that signals a problem, it’s the urge to stridently defend oneself. I think the author of How People Change describes it best by explaining how people respond when their idols are threatened (what the book calls applied “heat”). They get all huffy and argumentative. If someone is calling you on a sin, and you throw a ton of counterarguments against them rapid fire, it’s basically just proving that person right.
You know that line in You’ve Got Mail, where Tom Hanks is telling Meg Ryan why his quick tongue is a curse? He says that even if you know the right thing to say at the right moment, inevitably you’ll regret it later. It’s a curse, believe me.
In addition, when you’re good at arguing, you like to “go for the win.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly discussion about the shape of a particular cloud, you have the best evidence to present, and therefore, that cloud is what you make it to be. You go for it, like a dog with a bone. No matter the relative importance of the discussion.
Oh, and I might be in a minority with this one, but I like to play the devil’s advocate for argument’s sake. An argument is a safe turf for me. So I’ll strike one up when the mood suits me. “You say that exercise is good for you, but don’t you know that it’s the leading cause of heart attacks over the age of 60?” See what I mean…pointless…and often not very productive (By the way, I’m pulling that statistic out of my butt, another “good” skill I have.). It’s sort of like if a gymnast suddenly started turning cartwheels in the middle of traffic. Pointless, a little showy, and dangerous to her and everyone else involved.
I don’t mean this to be an exercise in self loathing. But in the name of the full disclosure I typically have on this blog, I thought I’d spill a little about the not so pretty side of my personality. I’m in hopes that others share my problem and are willing to confront it as well.
And no, I’m not saying that debate is a sin. A good sparring round with someone who has a similar proclivity can be an iron sharpens iron experience, a battle of wits and wisdom. I’m a fan of debate tournaments for this reason.
But with all personality traits, there’s a sinful potential as well. A shy person can fully disengage from community. A talkative person can refuse to shut up. A social person can continually claim the center of attention.
And with me, my strength can also be my greatest weakness.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits”(Proverbs 18:21).
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue”(Proverbs 31:26)