Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Friday, 14 September 2007
Friday, 14 September 2007 19:58

The Anatomy of Contention

In order for there to be controversy there must be disagreement over some bone of contention, that is, some belief, statement, observation or opinion that is upheld or proposed by one party and objected to or rejected by another. Each tries to persuade the other to his or her interpretation and the controversy only subsides when some accommodating compromise is made, one of the parties yields or both just let the matter drop and go on to something else.

The argument may be about the meaning and interpretation of what is said or about the principles or reasons for which it is said or upon some unacceptable consequence or conclusion that might come from acceptance of the statement. Men of sincere goodwill will ordinarily first strive to understand and appreciate what the other is trying to say, because sometimes it turns out that the disagreement was based on a misinterpretation of the other’s meaning. Sometimes the problem lies in one person’s rejection of the principle or reason upon which the statement is based like a politician of one persuasion might reject outright policies based on contrary principles of another party or in the case of religious conflicts, one party refuses to accept the authority or authenticity or interpretation of some biblical text or religious belief. Finally, the objection might come from fear or conviction that following the alleged opinion will lead to war or economic collapse or moral disorder or some other undesirable consequence.

Given the great variety of human experiences, the proliferation of private opinions and the general fact that there are usually many different ways to reach a common end, it is not surprising that there are many arguments, controversies, and disagreements about how to proceed. Men and women of good will must often put aside their personal preferences for the sake of the common good. It is quite necessary that some proposed laws opposed by some must become the laws imposed on all. Sometimes in matters of conscience some people are impelled to reject and stand firm against what others decide. One has to admire their courage and determination even while trying to persuade them to change their minds.

Unfortunately there will always be some individuals or groups of individuals whose sole response to controversy is to persecute and destroy with malice and hatred all those who oppose them. For them there is no controversy, because in their minds there is solely what they believe and affirm with no room for tolerance of or attention to other opinions.

There is always a tension between our own convictions and those of others that are different. Happy are those who know when to stand up for what they believe and when to stand down, when to follow their inclinations and when to follow others, when to reject and when to accept the opinions of others and do so with calmness and charity.

At the end of each controversy when decisions have been made and courses of action laid out, there will always be some whose ideas were rejected and some who triumphed. It is the sign of greatness when those who lost accept the decisions and those who won do not reject those who yielded.

It is good for people to have their own opinions. It is good to listen the opinions of others and share ideas. It is good when those who raised fists at each other during the debate shake hands when the discussion is over.

May the day never come when there is no controversy. May the day never come when issues cannot be resolved amicably so that all can unite with one voice for a good of all.

Read another Bob’s article on how to deal with hostility

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