When arguing defeats the purpose


Don’t fight. Have a conversation.


I think about abortion a lot. I write about abortion almost every day, which means I think about it every day. People send me e-mail about abortion every day: articles, suggestions, praise, hate mail. Abortion is always on my radar.

That is why, when I’m out having fun and someone brings up abortion, I am kind of disappointed.

It’s not that I don’t care. I obviously do care. It’s just that you can think about baby-killing only so much. Eventually, believe it or not, the subject of slaughtered unborn children gets tiresome.

When someone brings up abortion at a non-abortion function – a party, a dinner out, a family gathering, etc. – I address whatever is said thoroughly but perfunctorily, then change the subject. If they press, it’s usually because they want to argue.

I don’t like arguing about abortion, for the reason I mentioned above: I spend enough time thinking and writing about abortion without arguing about it in my free time.

If someone presses the issue, if someone really wants to argue, I’ll discuss it with them. But I will not have a knock-down, drag-out argument.

I spent the first three quarters of my life being a really argumentative person. I would throw down with anyone, anywhere. I would take it as far as they wanted to go. I wouldn’t be the first to get nasty – or even personal – but I wouldn’t back down from that kind of fight, either.

But as I got a little older, I started to realize that those types of arguments – the aggressive, no-holds-barred kind – accomplished nothing. Both my opponent – for want of a better word – and I weren’t actually hearing each other. We were just waiting for the other to take a breath so we could say something.

In all those countless arguments throughout my teens and twenties, on the subject of everything from Christianity to war to the death penalty to the existence of God to whether Gandalf could beat Darth Vader in a fight (for the record, he totally could), I don’t think I ever persuaded anyone to my way of thinking. And no one ever persuaded me.

The conversation that made me pro-life was just that – a conversation. A discussion. Not an argument. It worked because I was ready to hear it, and my friend approached it as a friendly talk about an important issue.

My conversion to Christianity happened because I started to approach the Church, for the first time, fairly. I began to read about the Church with an eye towards being impartial, learning the truth. And like G.K. Chesterton said of converts to the Church of Rome, “The moment they try to be fair to it, they begin to be fond of it.”

When I do find myself in a situation where someone wants to argue with me, I first decide to myself that I’m going to have a discussion, not an argument. Next, I ask God to use me as a mouthpiece. Last, I force myself to remain calm and not be drawn into a fight. Look, I love a good fight. But this issue is more important than my wants, and in my experience, a big nasty fight is not going to convince anyone of the sanctity of life.

I try to think of myself as a representative of the pro-life movement, and I try not to sully it by screaming, “OH YEAH? WELL, YOU’RE AN A-HOLE!” Although I sometimes really want to. I can be a tad snarky, but that’s just me, even when I’m being nice. Ask my friends and family.

There are situations when I won’t have the discussion at all. I was at a party once where one of the guests, trying to show everyone how incredibly intelligent he was, drew the hostess into an argument about abortion, which turned into a sometimes very screamy argument about the existence of God that lasted hours. I refused to join in from the get-go. I knew what he was after. He interested not in having an open discussion, but in proving his superior intellect. I knew from the start that that conversation would be an exercise in futility, and I was right. So I sat in the living room and drank rum. The moral of this story is: choose your battles. And also: don’t wallow in the mud with pigs. You just get dirty, and the pig just has fun.

Don’t ever be afraid – ever! – to share the truth about abortion. But don’t fight about it. Be calm. Have a conversation. And if the person isn’t willing to be nice about it, disengage. Don’t drag the cause or yourself through the mud.

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