I’m ranting again — ranting about why this WinSome movement concept is so important. Specifically, I’m telling her that most people think their ideas are right, and so they plow through life offending others, rather than listening, building relationships, and taking the long view.
I forget exactly how she said what came next, because, frankly, I was caught up in what I was saying. But she said something like, “That’s why I don’t even try to argue or debate with you. You always have to win.”
I don’t know if it’s an ego thing — that I just can’t stand the feeling of having someone else get the better of me because it’s embarrassing. Or…
I’d like to think that I need to win because I really believe that I’m correct and it would be a grave injustice to capitulate. I’m not selfish, I’m serving a higher purpose.
In other words, it’s not about me, but about accuracy and righteousness…as if I’m the one the gods chose to defend the Platonic ideals, and without me, truth itself would suffer.
This flash of insight into my own weakness and failure as a man was painful. Here I am writing a book, planning podcasts and videos and blog posts about how to win arguments by being winsome, and with a few simple words, she let every cubic centimeter of air out of my balloon.
I mumbled something about how (really) everyone wants to win all of the time, but we each have a different approach. She disengages as a way of winning. I over-engage and then pat myself on the back when my brilliance elicits silence from my…from my what?
She’s not my opponent. She’s a fellow American, another human being, a precious gift from the Creator.
And she’s my wife.
What theoretical principle, Platonic ideal, or even mundane point is so crucial that I will rise to defend it at all costs? At the cost of putting distance between myself and the woman I love?
I do it all of the time.
It’s quite easy to convince myself, sometimes on scanty evidence, that I’m right, and therefore I should press on to victory.
So, I marshal my words and that tone of voice, my sarcasm and my rhetorical power, in the service of an idea. I’m convinced I serve a greater cause than self.
Human nature is a funny thing.
Despite our broken-ness, and quiet knowledge that we are flawed — even sinful — creatures, we put on a mask of goodness. Most of us think that if God were weighing our good deeds against our bad, that — on balance — the doors of heaven would swing wide to welcome us.
But inside, I know another man.
His weakness, greed, and selfishness, should instantly make me wary of anything that comes out of his mouth redolent of smug confidence.
It’s too easy to assume I’m right, because it’s what I want, and the wanting can make it so…at least in my own mind.
In actual practice, the very fact that I feel so sure of myself on a particular point should make me suspicious. It should drive me to dig deeper — to listen, to learn, to think, and to grow. The faster my ‘confidence’ rises, the more cautious I should be at unleashing it on others.
If I merely succeed in shutting down the argument, that’s no victory. She walks away more convinced of her views, and less impressed with me — less inclined to listen the next time.
I’ve inflicted damage on both of us. I’m no closer to victory.
While this agonizing moment arose between husband and wife, a more careful inventory of my interactions with others might reveal a pattern. I should eagerly desire to uncover that pattern, and to interrupt it whenever I detect it.
I can write about this kind of humility and wisdom. Writing is easy.
It’s the doing that’s the trouble.