Yesterday I got into an argument. Believe it or not, it’s not such a unique thing for me to argue. I was raised in a family that valued a good argument, went to school to learn how to argue, and do it for eight hours a day at my job. So it’s no surprise that on a weekend, I got into an argument.

It was a silly, stupid thing, really. I was asked not to do something and yet did it anyway. I won’t go into details – there were conflicting instructions which led to miscommunication and resulted in an disagreement. As much as I’ve progressed in my spiritual journey, there are times I fall prey to my ego; the little voice inside my head which believes down to the core of my being that I am right. Other people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

This is quite possibly a remnant of the mentality I had while a teenager – so self assured in my own superiority that I was blind to what life really offered. It took twelve years of work to shed that skin and apparently it’s not completely off. I don’t know if it will ever be gone forever. We are all a work in progress. Day to day we struggle with not only the negative energies of others which attack our soul, spirit, and dreams, but we must constantly be vigilant against our own self aggrandizement and on the defensive about our own self-doubt. A fine balance. Be humble, but not so humble that you lack confidence. Be confident in your dreams and skills, but not so much so that you become arrogant. These concepts are not unlike riding the see-saw when we were children. One side goes up, the other goes down. It’s a give and take and yet each day we struggle to find a balance, that perfect equilibrium.

I read a post by a Rabbi this morning. One on this weeks Torah portion.

שָׁמֹ֤עַ בֵּין־אֲחֵיכֶם֙ וּשְׁפַטְתֶ֣ם צֶ֔דֶק בֵּין־אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵין־אָחִ֖יו וּבֵ֥ין גֵּרוֹ

Hear out your fellow man, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger.

It is easy to nod your head along with someone who agrees with you. We love it when people support our positions. We find it natural to respect those who do with love, kindness, and compassion. The task becomes more difficult when we encounter someone who disagrees, let alone someone who vehemently dissents. Instead of it being easy to smile, it becomes easy to be dismissive. With a wave of our hand we write off their opinions as nonsense, illogical, or just pure stupidity. Most of the time, we don’t consider what is leading those who diverge to their conclusions. We are quick to judge and even quicker to push away.

Yet, perhaps this is the most crucial time for evaluation. Hot bloodied and full of passion, we’re ready to fist pound our position until the other person gets it. They won’t. That’s not the way to win any argument. It actually achieves the opposite reaction, the gap between you two will be further apart than ever.

If you find yourself in an argument, I encourage you to pause. Breathe. Cool down. Let the rage and heat of the moment dissolve. Consider their position and seek a mutual goal. Once a mutual goal is established, find mutual respect. We cannot solve a problem if we do not respect one another on a fundamental level. I think you’ll find that mutual goals and mutual respect is easily sought and discovered if one looks hard enough. The space between us is narrower than you may believe.

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About Joshua G. Silverman