For the last 20 years I’ve been involved in some sort of “crusade.” I’ve argued that:
- Alcohol should be banned.
- Pot should be legalized.
- Religion should be destroyed.
- America should be delivered from crazy liberals.
However, over the last several years I’ve been learning how to spend less time arguing, and more time encouraging people.
And today I want to share my story in case you’re tired of wasting so much time arguing and debating.
So if you find yourself getting sucked into debate after debate… if your blood pressure spikes every time you open Facebook and you want to change that then keep reading.
By the way, after I share my story here’s what I’m not going to tell you to do:
- “Now, just stop arguing and be nice!”
- “Follow this nice little 5-Step Plan to be free from argumentativeness.”
- “Arguing is just a symptom of the flesh. So just kill the flesh.”
Remember, this blog is called “Beyond Cliches.” So I try to do my best to avoid using powerless cliches to solve real problems.
And my personal opinion is that many people who are prone to argue actually have a gift of exhortation that’s been twisted. So I don’t think God just wants to “kill” that part of you. I believe He wants to “redeem” it and use it for His glory.
OK. So here we go… let’s turn the clock back to 6th grade when I was 11 years old.
Stage 1: Ban Alcohol!
I remember my Mom telling me she thought I would be a lawyer one day because of how much I argued and debated. My Mom was, and is, a loving person.
However, she also struggled with alcoholism during my childhood. As the oldest of 5 kids, I was the one who would stay up late to make sure Mom came home from the bars safely.
And since I was up at 2 and 3 a.m. I saw firsthand the effects alcohol had on my Mom and her marriage. There were many late-night fights I eavesdropped on and it wasn’t long before I developed a hatred for alcohol.
When I was 11 I wrote a persuasive paper for school about the evils of alcohol and how it should be banned from society! Arguing this point made me feel like I was doing something to fight this evil.
So for years I carried around an intense hatred for alcohol. I was quick to remind people that alcohol is responsible for more deaths than all illicit drugs combined!
However, my crusade against alcohol only lasted a few years… until the time I started drinking (oops, how did that happen!?).
Stage 2: Legalize Pot!
Fast forward a few years to the summer of my 8th grade year. I was 14 and found myself getting drunk for the first time as me and my friends, Abe and Adam, snuck shots of 151 from Adam’s parents’ kitchen. I also got stoned for the first time that summer.
I enjoyed these substances that allowed me to escape reality. So I had a “change of heart” regarding the whole “ban alcohol” argument… maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
By the time I was 16 I was smoking pot daily and getting drunk most weekends. And even though I had stopped arguing to ban alcohol my argumentative side still needed an outlet and so I found another issue: legalizing pot.
I wrote another persuasive paper for school (my poor teachers, I wonder what they thought of these papers) arguing how marijuana should be legalized!
I was armed with all the facts (at least all the facts a 16-year-old stoner could retain) and ready to debate anyone.
However, my crusade to legalize pot only lasted a few years because one of my main arguments was that “marijuana is not a gateway drug.”
Then I tried cocaine when I was 18. So that threw a wrench in my, “it’s not a gateway drug” argument.
Stage 3: Destroy Religion!
I got saved when I was 20. And, of course, a lot changed when that happened. But not everything.
For example, the desire to argue didn’t leave. It just took on a new form. One of the first things I remember arguing as a believer was about Holy Spirit.
I got baptized in the Spirit while praying with my grandma on the phone. And I remember crying, laughing and speaking a new language I never spoke before.
I was so excited because I could feel a power inside of me that I hadn’t felt before. It allowed me to say no to things (such as temptations and cravings) that I never could have before. It was like I was finally in control of my will for the first time. It was awesome!
As I studied the Bible I saw references to Holy Spirit everywhere. I was excited about that but also alarmed because I felt like Christians weren’t talking about Him much. I was like, “Come on guys, don’t forget about God’s Spirit…Why aren’t we talking about Him? What’s going on?!”
The whole “Holy Spirit is being ignored” argument turned out to be a gateway drug into more serious debates, such as the “evils of religion.”
I started to see how destructive religion was and how it kept people from actually experiencing spiritual realities. I saw all the hypocrisy and phoniness in the church and was determined to see revival, and God’s Presence, defeat all these religious spirits. I was a man on a mission!
Then one day I was at a worship conference in Dallas and felt the Lord confront me about my “hatred for religion.” In a moment a simple truth was downloaded into my spirit, which was:
“You will become the thing you hate because it’s what you’re focusing on.”
I was also immediately aware of a connection between my hatred for alcohol and the fact I became an alcoholic (Side note: I don’t believe that’s the only reason I became an alcoholic. And I admit I don’t understand how that all works. But I do believe there was some sort of connection between the two.)
The bottom line was that I knew if I continued down my zealous path of hating religion I would become the thing I hated: a religious person. So I stopped.
Stage 4: Stop the Liberals!
After I ended my worldwide campaign against religion I found myself engaged in yet a new battle: politics.
I read political books, blogs and listened to a lot of talk radio during this time.
And it wasn’t long until I had a new mission: get America back on track (apparently I was going to do it single-handedly!).
My life verse during this time was Psalm 11:3, “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?”
I was not going to let the foundations of the country I loved be destroyed by left-winged liberals! Never. Give me liberty or give me death (or at least give me one more talk show radio episode)!
At one point I got so fed up with the liberal media that I felt convicted that I had to either do something or shut up.
So I decided to start a hyperlocal media website for my city. I named it the Battle Ground Buzz. This was an interesting experience and I learned a lot.
For example, I learned:
- Local politics is not nearly as exciting as federal politics.
- Local politics has more of a direct impact on your life than federal politics.
- It’s harder to just “pick a side/party” in local politics.
- The issues are complex and there are no easy answers.
- Every “solution” has trade offs.
Within a week of launching the Buzz I got to sit down with the Mayor of Battle Ground and had a great talk. I learned we disagreed about some issues but agreed on others.
The same thing happened as I met with the City Council Members. So it became harder to continue with the “us vs them” mindset.
This was also during the first year of my new freelance copywriting business so I had less time to read and debate politics.
Eventually, the demands of my business crowded out my political crusade… but I wasn’t ready to give it up. I just told myself, After I make a bunch of money then I’ll really have time to fight for these issues.
(Early) Stage 5: Freedom from Argumentativeness!
Fast forward about 4 years to today. I’d like to say, “Well, now all that arguing is behind me. I’m a changed man and I never argue anymore!”
But that’s not true. However, some significant things have really changed in my heart over the last several years. Changes that have resulted in more peace, love and happiness in my life.
For example, I don’t feel compelled to enter into every discussion about something I disagree with.
Just the other night I heard someone complain about how wrong he thought it was that some CEOs make so much money while their workers make so little.
Immediately, my mind pulled up all the files in this topic and I felt tempted to go sit near him so I could give my two cents.
Questions I would pose formed in my mind in seconds like, “So what do you think should be done about this? Do you think the government should intervene?” And, “Do you think money is finite or infinite? In other words, do you think there’s a fixed amount of wealth in the world so that in order for one person to get ahead it means it’s being taken from another person?”
But I resisted.
I remembered I wasn’t going to change his mind and it wasn’t my responsibility to argue in favor of capitalism every time someone attacked it. Plus, I knew it would create negative emotions in me and in him. So I kept quiet. And I’m happy I did.
This may seem like a small thing. But for me it’s a big deal. It’s like a recovering alcoholic who finds himself in a room full of people drinking, yet doesn’t pick up a drink.
So what happened? How did I go from being a zealous crusader to someone who could sit quietly and refrain from debating?
I would love to end this by giving you some sort of “5-Steps on How to Be Less Argumentative.” But honestly, I don’t know exactly what those steps would be. So that would feel contrived.
Instead, I’d like to share three areas of my life God has used to form new values in me. Values that have allowed me to experience more freedom when it comes to arguments:
How God Used Bethel, Marriage and Copywriting to Instill New Values
I’ve been drinking from the life-giving messages out of Bethel for the last 10 years. And several years ago I started learning about something called a “Culture of Honor” from a few of their teachers (Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton and Danny Silk) on their weekly podcast.
I could write a whole post about a culture of honor. But I’ll sum it up by this Bill Johnson quote:
“A culture of honor celebrates who someone is, without stumbling over who they are not.”
Developing a culture of honor has been an important value in our home. Lacie and I both feel it’s an attribute that we want present in our lives and family culture.
Therefore, we stopped being so critical of other people, we stopped using sarcasm and we started to look for the gold in people instead of focusing on their flaws. Of course we haven’t done this perfectly but it’s an area where we’ve grown and continue to progress in.
Speaking of Lacie, my relationship with her has played an important role in helping me be free from an argumentative spirit. If you’re married you know you can be right but also be wrong at the same time.
If you’re not married this means you can technically be right about something but in your zeal to defend your position you can hurt your spouse. In other words, it’s possible to value being right over the relationship.
The third area of life God has used to renew my heart and mind in this area is copywriting. As a full-time freelance copywriter I’ve studied a lot about psychology, human desire and the principles of persuasion.
And one of the most important truths I’ve discovered about desire comes from legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz.
He says, “Mass desire is the public spread of a private want.” And the job of the copywriter is to figure out how to channel that desire (not create it).
So in order for my copywriting and marketing efforts to succeed I’ve learned a great deal about identifying certain desires and how to channel them into my client’s product or service.
When I’ve ignored this truth and tried to “plant a desire” in someone’s mind my copywriting is not as effective.
Once I understood this truth I also understood that it’s almost impossible to try and change someone’s mind about a deep-rooted belief. This is why arguments are usually a waste of time. It’s the equivalent of trying to plant a desire into a consumer’s mind for a product he doesn’t really want.
Instead, I’ve found it’s more effective to encourage people to pursue the desires they already have. This is the difference between arguing and exhorting someone.
So those are the three areas God used to help set me free from the constant addiction to arguing.
I’m not saying He’ll use the same things for you. But I would encourage you to at least listen to some of the teachings from Bethel if you’re interested about learning how to develop a culture of honor. I believe that’s a key component in walking in freedom.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments below. Thanks.