by Josh Linton
As my religious views have grown more confused and muddled I find myself in countless nuanced disagreements with conversation partners. I gasp at the boldness of people’s convictions. Sometimes I can feel my face flush in desire to speak up, to address the unfounded claims, to counter the arguments that I believe come from nowhere. Typically I don’t. (That’s not to say I keep my mouth shut when I should. I have issues too. But this isn’t about that flaw) I’m talking about a discipline I practice (with frequent failure) to argue in silence.
It’s not worth it to throw down the gauntlet on every statement opposed to my perspective. In fact, some conversation partners crave that challenge in order to validate their talking points. So I’m learning to let it go with little more than a nod to show I’m listening, not agreeing mind you, but receiving the information. It’s saved me tons of trouble. I also keep the chance to develop relationships I want to see flourish instead of watching them disintegrate in a tornado of political or religious disagreements. And, too, the silence stands in quiet protest to the loud, trumpeting dogma that turns so many off.
But when it comes to my wife I like a good debate. In some twisted way it helps me experience the bonding of our hearts. She doesn’t share the same feeling. She would rather go off and fold clothes or something without a word. It drives me hair-pulling insane. I want to talk and hash out the argument. She wins in silence. She subversively, silently obliterates the points I’m trying to make because she refuses to offer them any fuel to continue. With other’s it’s a little different since we’re talking about different relationships altogether.
In casual conversation, as things come up that could potentially cause a splintering disagreement, I like to evoke the silent treatment before the other person ever finds out my opposing view. I don’t even address it. If so I find something I can agree with and move on. My goal shouldn’t be to have everyone see the world the way I do. That’s ridiculous (and often a bit odd anyway). My hope is that we can see each other and not our views. Once that takes place we can discuss ideological perspectives as secondary factors within a solid relationship instead of using them as building blocks for that relationship, which will likely never take off because the blocks never line up. Giving the silent treatment isn’t ignoring others. I think it’s a way of loving them.