There are people who think that any disagreement with their views is unacceptable, and when they become frustrated at their inability to get the other person to “see the light,” they resort to anger and ugliness. Sometimes, the anger is understandable, even righteous. Ugliness – in the form of ad hominem attacks, bullying, crass memes, vandalism, or violence – never is.
There are people who recognize that the failure is theirs: either their viewpoint is flawed or their persuasive skills are lacking. They can let that discourage and depress them and make them feel inadequate, or they can go back, re-examine their own knowledge, understanding, and belief to find better, more compelling, examples and arguments.
There are people who can simply accept others being “wrong” (because few people happily admit that they’re the ones who are!) and let it go.
If we want people to believe as we do – especially in matters of faith, as opposed to science – the best thing to do is to lead by good example. Forced conversion is no better than forced confession; pain avoidance and survival instincts are strong, but they don’t really change hearts and minds, nor do they elicit honesty from deep within. I don’t believe that an intimidated, terrified soul is a “saved” soul, or that most of us – if faced with torture – would not agree that the world is flat.
Faith and respect aren’t synonymous with mindlessness or fear. If you seek to convert others to your beliefs, inspire them by living as a shining example. If you want agreement with an argument, offer strong evidence and credible sources. Don’t shy away from or seek to hide contradictory facts – address those and craft persuasive, logical arguments as to why the ones you believe are better.
If you’re not willing to do that – because, admittedly, it takes some effort, learn to smile quietly and think, “Bless your pointy little head” and move on, with kindness, good will, and peace. The only time there should be need of violence – physical or mental – is in defending life and liberty from those who would take it or keep it only for themselves. Even then, I’m reasonably sure there’s never a time or a place for torture or mental cruelty.
This post began life as a reply to my friend Vivian Zabel’s post on Facebook:
Too often, we lament this social media incivility, but go right on perpetrating it. I want to challenge all of us to think about what we post and how we deal with others. I’m not advocating “political correctness” or “nicey-nice” (fake, smarmy, insincere pleasantry), but rather that we spend time talking kindly to each other and instead of shouting things like, “You’re so wrong, you damned fool!” make better arguments and work together on figuring out happy win-win compromises and solutions to things we can deal with. If that’s too much (and some days,. it really is) let’s try to at least smile and think “Bless your pointy little head” while posting cat memes.
Thank you, @SHurleyHall, for creating this quotation graphic from my post today:
I feel social-media loved, today. Truly, I feel honored. Thank you, Sharon, for that.
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