Over the joyous holiday season, I’ve had time to think about some less-than-joyous things.

I hate getting into arguments. It makes my heart sink to get into yet another argument. Some days, I just don’t want to check the blogs I read because I fear that there will be a comment in response to me, and I know that if there is, it could be another rebuttal I’ll have to counter. I know my emotions will spiral downward for some period of time that I can’t get back.

I hate getting into arguments, but crazily enough, that doesn’t stop me from jumping into them. Perhaps that’s my first fault? I can’t stand to feel misunderstood or marginalized, so I keep trying to press my view point until there’s understanding and agreement. At the same time, I know that I’m just falling into a trap I’ve set for myself…I know that all that will happen over the course of the argument is that I’ll be ruining friendships and boiling emotions, and I’ll leave the discussion just a bit more marginalized than I entered…

I don’t require agreement, but I think in an ideal world, opinions wouldn’t always butt heads and put us into a situations where one threatens another. So I always wonder, when I meet someone different if they will be the kind of person to provoke a disagreement of beliefs– or if I will provoke this disagreement. I wonder if I have to prepare myself for a future war of words.

If I find myself in an argument, I won’t let down. If I do, I feel I’ve betrayed my entire belief system. Perhaps that’s a second fault?

I know that “taking offense from what someone else has said” is one of those copout reasons that some faithful Mormons believe exmembers leave the church for, but I must say that the potential for argument is one of the reasons I dislike religion. And not just religion, but anything related to the sphere. Whatever the grouping, whether in the church or in another church or even among the churchless (it’s not as if atheists are immune!) there seems to be this confidence in opinions that ignites flames of disagreement and argument.

It doesn’t stop me from taking labels. Cultural Mormon. Weak atheist. Agnostic. Apatheist. These labels become too complicated, but still, I use them. Maybe a third fault?

One of my issues while in the church was reconciling what I didn’t believe with that I could believe. At the time, I liked many of the physical and tangible aspects of the church…like its organization or its emphasis on professionalism and business, but I disliked things like the intangible or spiritual aspects — even though I could see faith making a difference in others’ lives, it meant nothing to me. So while I had little problem defending certain aspects of the church and in regurgitating standard book answers for theological points, I felt uneasy defending things like the historicity of the Book of Mormon or testifying about matters of faith — not only did I feel enslaved to the idea of being in an argument about beliefs, which I hate, but I felt enslaved again because, as a Mormon, I had to defend everything — including that which I didn’t believe in. What kind of Mormon would I be if I told my opponents that they ought not take the BoM in any literal fashion? (I’m not sure if it is worthy-for-temple to view the BoM as an allegorical, yet fabricated work.)

It was incredibly freeing to distance myself from the label. I realized: I don’t have to defend things I don’t believe in. In fact, because the few things I did appreciate weren’t limited to the church, I didn’t even really need to base things on the church.

Reidentification didn’t necessarily spare me from all arguments. Instead, I traded anti-Mormon arguments from non-LDS Christians and other groups for anti-atheist and anti-nonbeliever arguments from everyone including LDS friends, stronger atheists than I and weaker atheists than I. But I was ok for a while with it, because at least I was defending the ideas I chose.

But…really…I was still making enemies.

I still wish, however naively it may be, that the things I say won’t create a spirit of contention. Yet, I wish simultaneously that I can be allowed to live without others denigrating my views. So, perhaps, for this holiday season, I apologize for the uncharitable things I’ve said (or the things which were interpreted as uncharitable). Unfortunately, I’ve never been a fan of New years’ resolutions, so I can’t say that in the future that I’ll be less willing to argue even if I hate the eventual escalation.

Andrew S

Andrew S grew up in a military family, but apparently, that didn't make much of an impression upon him because he has since forgotten all of his French and all of his Hangungmal (but he does mispronounce the past tense of "win" like the Korean currency and thinks that English needs to get it together!) Andrew is currently a student at Texas A&M who loves tax accounting, the social sciences, fencing (epee), typography, presentation design, and public speaking, smartphones, linux, and nonparallel structured lists.

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14 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    Internet conflicts can be stressful, but it’s kind of the nature of the beast — you can’t really communicate the same nuance without nonverbal cues, so misunderstandings areise and escalate.

    From what you’ve said earlier, though, I imagine you’re talking more about your father. You don’t want to talk him out of his beliefs, but you want him to respect you and not look down on you for yours. I’d say that there’s a limit to how much you can convice people through discussion to respect you. You just have to be patient and show your character through your actions over time. This has worked fairly well with my (devoutly religious) parents.

  2. Andrew S says:

    Even though I guess I didn’t mean to allude to this paternal struggle, I always get to it. I’m so predictable now!

    I think you’re right — there’s a limit to how much you can convince people through discussion to respect you. At the same time, all of my faults dispose me to try anyway. It seems like time moves to slowly to show character through actions only and that it won’t be noticeable enough in the time I want it to be. I mean, I guess I have years ahead of me though…

  3. rebecca says:

    I totally relate to this. I get into an argument online and feel like, if I don’t keep responding and defending my points, I’m implying that the other party has trumped me. When it gets super stressful and it’s obviously not going anywhere productive, I try to leave a last comment, adding that I will not be reading or responding anymore. And no matter how tempting it is, I just leave it alone. Sometimes I fret about whether or not the other people will take it as me not having a strong enough argument, but then I think, “hey, I don’t actually CARE what these people think of me.” That makes me feel better because A) I can let it go and not be stressed about it anymore, and B) I can be one of those cool people who doesn’t care what other people think of them.

  4. Andrew S says:

    rebecca, reading your comments inspires me.

    And no matter how tempting it is, you just leave it alone.

    It is kinda inspiring, because it makes me realize that even without the church (or any church) telling us what is good and what is bad, what is a temptation and what is not, we can still discern these things when we are going on our own paths. So, we can still make meaningful progress and set goals in our lives without having them prescribed by others…

    Kinda makes me want to do a new year’s resolution, except I won’t call it a new year’s resolution. We don’t need any opportunity to work at improving ourselves and our characters.

  5. chanson says:

    Speaking of leaving it alone…

    I stepped away from the Internet for a day and a half (because I’m on vacation in Paris and don’t have Internet access — I’m currently imposing on a friend at his apartment), and guess what I found here at MSP? More than 800 spam comments to delete! And I have to at least scroll through the list to make sure there aren’t any real comments among them.

    I really need to talk to Hellmut about getting a proper spam control plugin. The site has picked up in popularity, and deleting the spam by hand at this rate is getting a little ridiculous…

  6. Andrew S says:

    Now you’re only down to 218, so it seems you’ve been pretty productive 🙂

  7. chanson says:

    Nah, those are new ones. It presented me one massive screen to view (and delete) all 850 or so. And since then we got another 400 which I just now deleted — blogging from in the train!

  8. Hellmut says:

    I just deleted a 1011. Does anyone have code that blocks a spammed poster?

  9. chanson says:

    Hellmut — It’s not a question of one or two spammers. It’s that this site has become more popular lately (yay!) hence is attracting way more spam (boo!), about 800 hundred spams a day. The reason you may not have noticed the difference is that I’ve been deleting them by hand every day. That was a reasonable solution back when we were getting no more than a hundred or so per day, but I think we need to install some sort of plugin that will filter them automatically.

  10. I assume that most of the spam comments are on old posts. That’s what happening on my blog. I had to delete hundreds of spam each week that Akismet caught. I would scan the list to see if any ham got caught by mistake, but it got to be too much. I finally relented and checked the box “Automatically discard spam comments on posts older than a month”. My Akismet has is pretty well trained by now. I only now see 2-3 spam comments per week that I have to review. Granted, my blog is much humbler than MSP. 🙂

  11. profxm says:

    I use re-captcha on my website ( Virtually no spam comments ever. Very nice. Also, how long has it been since we upgraded the version of WordPress running the site? I keep my personal blog updated and it’s pretty clear what is running MSP is an old version.

  12. wry catcher says:

    Yeah, I come on and delete spam, too. Not every day, but pretty often. I use WordPress, too, and I seriously get like one spam a month. We could do something much better than we’re doing now — only I don’t know what it is.

    Don’t any of you arguing types know something about this, cuz we will *totally* let you be right. 😉

  13. wry catcher says:

    Okay, just checked — we’re not even using the Askimet plugin!! Which is very basic spam filtering (it’s all I need for my wee, humble blog). I can’t turn it on because I’m not the admin here — we just need to go to “plugins” and activate that one, but we need the API key to do so. Normally that is in the profile, but it’s not here — I think it would be for the admin. So, who’s running this joint? Can we ask Sols or Nom to come turn that plugin on? And to upgrade to newer WP while we’re at it? 🙂

  1. January 15, 2011

    […] positive discussions here at the MSP (or elsewhere, for that matter), and I’ve written about how I eventually hate arguments for this reason… but it seems that arguments have this tendency to escalate into wars about personalities. At […]

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