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Must You Win an Argument and Lose a Friend?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Several months ago, after the tragic shooting of young children in a school in Connecticut, I got into an argument with an old friend who is anti gun control. His views are very conservative and he has strong opinions against the liberal way of thinking. Knowing this and ignoring my better judgment, I pursued the discussion of gun control in the naive hope of changing his mind. It was a big mistake because he became very angry with the result that we nearly ended a decades old relationship. Was it worth to argue with him, and, knowing what the result would be, why did I insist on this quarrel?

For one thing, I believe I was outraged that anyone, after that horrific shooting, could remain anti gun control. After all, it’s not like the purpose of gun control is to take guns away but only to put limits who can and cannot be allowed to make that purchase. In addition, how could a good friend of mine be so narrow minded as to remain anti gun control in light of all the gun violence and deaths that have occurred over the last twenty years, all involving guns?

All of this sounds very logical and sensible, unless you agree with my friend. However, there was another issue that was going on for me. The bottom line in my thinking was, “how could anyone disagree with me?” If that sounds egotistic it was. As Pema Chodron, author of “When Things Fall Apart,” points out, “when we hold on to our opinions with aggression, no matter how valid our cause, we are simply adding more aggression to the planet, and violence and pain increase.”I was holding on to my opinion with aggression and felt that aggression prior to entering to the discussion.

I pointed out that it was egotistic of me to believe that I was so correct that no one should disagree with me. Once again, Codon states, in the same book that “all ego really is, our opinions, which we take to be solid, real, and the absolute truth about how things are.” This is what human aggression stems from. If each of us is convinced that we have the absolute truth then how can any of us get along? This is the basis of totalitarian and Nazi dictatorships. In other words, there can be only one belief, one point of view and one opinion and those are decided upon by the government.

In essence, when each of us insists that our own point of view is correct we want to win and the other person to lose. Herein lies the problem I created with my friend. I wanted him to be wrong. I wanted him to state that I was right. I wanted him to lose while I won. Frankly, on an international level, this is how wars begin.

Keep an eye on your opinions and when you find yourself arguing, stop, think again and let it go. Is it really worth losing a friend over these things?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD 

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