Take that!

9 May

I have a friend who is generally nice, and amiable. But when she gets angry, she has no boundaries to what she will say or do. She says things that are vicious, and destructive to make her point. She goes way too far. I asked her about this, and she said she does it so the argument will end quickly. “If you crush them, they give in, and the fight is over,” she said, and in some ways she’s right. I have another friend with the same model. If he ever has a disagreement he, too, goes way too far. He uses a cannon when a flyswatter would have been enough. He says and does horrible things to hurt the other person, and it’s always destructive. He also says that he does this because it ends the fight quickly. And he likes returning to the relationship after the destruction to patch everything back up, and make it better. He likes that part a lot. It’s like a personal destroy, and recovery mission.

There could be no worse models for handling disagreements than these, and yet despite discussing the situation with them several times, they are either unable or unwilling to change. And so it continues. I’ve had many experiences with both of these people through the course of our friendships, and when they get angry and say horrible things, and make destructive comments way out of the scope of the disagreement, I am so stunned that I naturally end the conversation. The argument is over quickly, which is their goal – but the pain, and damage from the conversation remain. As a result of these behaviors, whether they acknowledge it or not, their relationships with others suffer. After they attack someone, it takes a while for the injured party to recover, and begin to trust them again. And sometimes they won’t ever trust them again, and decide instead to let the relationship go.

If we go for the jugular in our disagreements, if we go too far for whatever reason, we may lose more in the end than we want. People are flexible to a point. They will allow us to hurt them to a point. But once that point is reached, they may walk away, and abandon the relationship. So the question comes, is it worth the cost of a friendship to make a point? Is it worth losing someone we value so we can win? There is nothing to be gained by crushing others because of a disagreement. We may feel powerful in the moment, but that power is an illusion. The only power we are really displaying is the power to destroy a relationship. Anyone can do that. It’s not powerful at all. So, is it worth it to win the argument at any cost? Perhaps we need to rethink that. Perhaps the real power is when we use discretion and respect, and protect the relationships we cherish, even in conflict.

We all disagree from time to time. We all let others down sometimes. We will naturally argue, and we will have uncomfortable discussions. Unless we are fighting for our lives, there is no justifiable reason to destroy anyone we are disagreeing with. It’s just a disagreement. Sure, maybe they let us down, maybe they hurt our feelings, or maybe they did something truly horrible. No matter what they’ve done, trying to destroy them will not restore what has been lost, or repair the situation. It will probably make it worse. If we lose our self-control, and if we lose the relationship altogether, winning the argument won’t be worth it.

Today if you have a disagreement with someone, even if they’ve been horrible to you, remember that what you do is your decision. You may vanquish them, stick the knife in their heart so to speak, but what will you gain afterward? Will it be worth how you feel about yourself later? Will it be worth losing a friend? Think before you throw that spear. Think before you say those words. Think. Will it be worth the cost? What do you really want to gain?

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