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“There are more quarrels smothered by just shutting your mouth, and holding it shut, than by all the wisdom in the world.” Henry Ward Beecher

It is exceptionally easy to argue a point, rationalise self-defeating behaviour, or to rally against any perceived criticism. Someone says something with which you disagree, so you are obliged to reply, strongly if appropriate, and tell them exactly like it is. More often than not, doing that also obliges you to tell them what they are, as well. You can’t help yourself – you’re in flow, you’ve attacked their argument and, since they made that argument, they must pay for it.

But if we are to exercise self-denial, we have to deny ourselves that instant pleasure of attacking back. We have to use the gap between stimulus and response, exercise proactivity and exercise our self-awareness, imagination, will and often conscience and decide that this is not a battle worth engaging in, let alone winning.

It is something I find myself doing, occasionally. Someone writes something attacking what I consider reasonable, and in a way that I perceive as ideologically biased, and the temptation to explain bluntly what I think of their viewpoint (and the fact that I see it to be blindly ideological rather than rationally argued) can be immense. But I also recognise that blind ideology cannot be argued against – that blindness is also deaf.

That’s assuming I am right, of course. But what if I am wrong, what if their argument does bear scrutiny? By attacking it I bring a shining light onto my own ignorance.

All that applies in a working/debating context, but what about in your relationships? Is it worth browbeating a spouse into intellectual submission? To what end? Who wins when you win an argument you need not have had in the first place?

Exercise the First Resolution in the name of the Third – serve others by denying yourself that “Ah! Told you so!” moment.

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