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Our Adamic tendencies stack the odds against us, which makes it impossible to get through life without conflict. Because of this universal problem, it is wise to learn how to argue well with others, which is why I’ve listed five tips to serve you.
Expect the Obvious – A right understanding of the doctrines of humanity and sin will bring your expectations down to a realistic level. There are no authentic, innate, righteous people in the world today. We all are sinners.
No one has escaped the curse of Adam. If another person’s sin is a surprise, you have forgotten the obvious: sin is the one thing we do very well. I am not making a case for anyone to sin, and I’m not making light of sin. I’m stating the obvious: we are sinners.
Be Suspicious – The only time when suspicion is allowed is when you are suspicious of yourself. Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5 that if you realize the log is in your eye, you are in an excellent place to engage another sinner.
I am well aware that I have “levels” of self-deception working in me, which can distort how I perceive conflict. A person who is humbly suspicious of himself is a person who has a right understanding of his Adamic-ness.
Remember Who You Were – My sin put Christ on the cross. Because of my sin, the Father executed His Son on the cross. Because of my sin, the Son willingly chose to die on the cross. It was my sin that put the Son on that tree.
I am the biggest sinner that I know. The things that people have done to me do not compare to what I have done to God. All other sins cannot compare to the sin that I have committed.
Paul understood this, even at the end of his life (1 Timothy 1:15). And he knew that his great God showed mercy on him, the chief of sinners. Most assuredly, I can extend a similar mercy toward others (Matthew 18:33).
Ask Questions – Typically, I charge into conflict making statements, rather than asking questions. I’m rarely suspicious of my tendency to be self-deceived, which motivates me to state my opinion with insufficient data.
More times than not, it would have been better for me to ask more questions before stating my perspective. Because of my high opinion of my views and the rightness that I feel, I tend not to ask enough questions, choosing instead to make more statements.
Little to Die Over – As I reflect on my past arguments, it is hard to remember any of them that were important enough to sin against God and another person.
I remember as a kid getting into an argument with my four brothers over a Snickers Bar. We were very poor, and on that day we had only one candy bar. One brother measured the candy with a ruler but did not divide the five parts equally. An argument ensued. Sadly, many of my arguments have not evolved much beyond the trivialities of dividing a candy bar.
Perhaps you are currently in a disagreement with someone. May I ask you some questions, based on the five tips above and encourage you to respond to God first and then to the person with whom you have the conflict?
Expectations – Are you surprised your offender has done wrong? (Assuming they have done wrong.) Can you extend grace? If not, why not? If not, then you have missed the point of the gospel.
Suspicious – Are you more suspicious of yourself or your friend? If you are genuinely more suspicious of yourself, will you respond in grace to your offender?
Remember – Who is the most significant sinner you know? If you say anything other than yourself, then you have some heart-work to do. But if you believe you are the worst sinner you know, you can extend mercy to your offender, because of the mercy God extended to you.
Questions: Do you think you have all the facts? Ask yourself if you are missing anything. Assume you are. Get more data. Ask more questions. Make fewer statements.
Trivialities – How important is it for you to be right? How important is the issue in which you are arguing? Is this a hill where you want to die?
Will you go to the person that you are in conflict with and seek to reconcile the relationship? Redemption is a great way to end an argument.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).