I love a good fight. That’s why I’m a gamer. I’m also a krav maga practitioner, but since this blog is about SaintBen’s experiences rather than Ben [my surname]‘s experiences, I’ll focus on the online stuff.
But I’m also a Christian and Christians aren’t meant to fight, right?
Rubbish, buddy! Got a problem with me? Let’s have it out! Let’s get it sorted here and now! (Again, we’re talking online here — don’t get the impression that krav maga practitioners are itching to kick your head in, or more likely, your testicles.) I don’t subscribe to the gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild school of thought. The real Jesus wants to destroy that pussyfooted imposter because he’s causing many Christians to be pussyfooted men.
Now as I said, I love a good fight. A good fight, mind you — not a bad one. I hate a bad one (Watch for a post on hate soon — hate is a valuable thing, but some foolish people want to outlaw it). Good fights serve productive purposes. I’m all about helping people, not hurting them, but sometimes pain is an inevitable part of the process.
Believe it or not, I strive not to think solely about myself when engaged in conflict. So a man like me is frequently misunderstood. My life’s mission is to advance God’s kingdom, not petty self-interests, so it’s important to me that every conflict is resolved in the best interests of both parties.
This is unusual, I know, so it’s not surprising that my opponents rarely understand what I’m up to, but justice is too important to me, and people are too important to me, for me to take the win-at-all-costs path or to avoid speaking up altogether.
So there are some principles I adhere to when fighting online (offline it’s anything goes when health or life is at stake — hence the groin-kicking reference earlier) and I’ll outline what I regard to be the three most important here. If you want to make your online fights more productive, you’d do well to adopt them.
Attack the argument, not the person
Generally, the worst thing you can do if you want a productive outcome is to attack your opponent rather than his arguments. This is called an ad hominem attack. Indulging in these is counter-productive and makes you look foolish. If your opponent is immature it will make him harder to get through to. If he’s mature, it provides him with ammunition to use against you.
Sometimes, though, your argument pertains to a legitimate flaw in the character of your opponent. In this case, it’s imperative to adhere to my second principle: be prepared to back up your accusations.
Always base accusations on evidence
Since being right is important to me (as opposed to simply crushing my opponent), I strive to be open to the possibility that personal attacks made against me might be founded in truth. It could very well be that there’s some flaw in my character that I’m oblivious to, and if so, I need to know about it in order to rectify it.
But I won’t entertain a naked accusation. If you’re going to accuse me of something, you need to back it up with evidence. I’m not some mug who takes to heart every filthy aspersion that’s cast at me. Show me the error of my ways — don’t merely tell me about it — and I’ll give what you’re saying due consideration.
It’s rare that your opponent will have this attitude. On occasion I’ve judged it worth being accused of making ad hominem attacks because I care enough about my interlocutor to show him what he can’t see about himself. Usually, though, it’s best to focus solely on arguments that don’t pertain to your opponent’s character. Which leads me to my third principle.
Choose your battles
In my view, the aim of every fight should be peace — that is, to resolve the argument (who wants to carry on a fight indefinitely?) but some people just won’t play by the rules. Others don’t have the maturity to refrain from lashing out at every perceived slight. Such people make resolution impossible.
I’ll often ask straight out: Are you open to persuasion? If the answer’s yes, I’ll proceed. If not, it’s most likely a lost cause, so I’ll usually walk away. It’s easiest to do this when your opponent’s being a real ratbag. It’s not so easy when he’s someone you really care about. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to persuade immature friends, but I judged it to be worth it because I cared about them so much.
Also, sometimes I have considered it worthwhile in online forums to challenge an obstinate or irrational person in the hope of persuading those reading the exchange.
Now all this is more than just my opinion. I’ve tested these principles in many an online stoush and their efficacy has been demonstrated time and again. I’ve used them successfully to persuade and to diffuse tension and to arrive at mutual understanding and respect without persuading my opponent and without him persuading me.
But what do you think? If you agree or have something to add, I’d love to hear from you. Want to challenge anything I’ve said? Step into the ring, my friend! Hit me with your best shot!