For the Sake of Argument

I tend to run in the opposite direction from most types of arguments. I simply refuse to get into the middle of it. It is also why I do not talk about politics or religion with hardly anyone, especially in work settings when I was still working, and in secular settings. I hate it when the volume gets turned up and the heat rises, too. Nobody wins in those types of arguments, or they win by bashing their opponent into the ground. So, nope, I just won’t go there.

However, it’s not that I don’t like a good debate on occasion. Now you may be wondering what the difference is between a debate and an argument since they often sound like one and the same thing. So what is the difference between the two?

In an article published on YourDictionary.com titled, No Argument, There’s a Difference Between Argue and Debate,” by Michele Meleen, editor, author, and staff writer at YourDictionary.com, she writes:

Debates and arguments are two types of discussions. And, you could debate or argue all day about how they are the same thing or entirely different. Let’s settle the debate once and for all with an in-depth look at what “debate” means and what “argument” means.

Debatecan be a noun or a verb, but to compare it with “argument,” let’s stick with the noun form. It comes from the Old French word “debatre,” which means “to fight or contend.” It is defined as a: “Formal discussion of the opposing sides of a specific subject.”

The wordargumentis always a noun. It comes from the classical Latin “argumentum,” which means “evidence or proof.” It is defined as: “A reason or reasons why you are for or against something.”

An argument is a part of a debate, which is the whole. In other words, a debate is made up of a bunch of arguments and counter arguments. Arguments are the proof needed to have the debate, or to discuss the opposing points of view.

In their common use, a debate is considered more formal than an argument. However, a debate can be informal and an argument can be formal. Looking at examples of these two words can help you better understand what makes them different.

Most people think of an argument as a yelling match or negative discussion. Any two or more people can engage in an argument any place, any time. There are really no rules for an informal argument. Informal arguments are often negative and involve a disagreement:

    • The couple got into an argument about how much money to spend on their vacation.
    • Talking about religion at Thanksgiving always leads to a family argument.

A debate can also be informal, although this is the less common use of the noun. An informal debate can take place anytime, anywhere, like an argument, but an informal debate is usually more civil than an informal argument:

    • My dad and I had a debate about the death penalty at dinner last week.
    • Can this abortion debate wait for another time, not at this birthday party?

A formal debate is a scheduled event that involves specific debate rules and enforcement of those rules:

    • The presidential debate will be on Channel 2 tonight.
    • Our high school team won the national debate.
    • The Senate is having a debate about whether to pass the new bill.

A formal argument is part of a debate and it needs to include supporting details so it is more than just one person’s opinion:

    • Please present your argument for closing migrant detention centers.
    • What evidence do you have to support your argument?
    • The argument you make in this essay is very compelling.

“Debate” and “argument” have many other synonyms since each is another word for “discuss.” It can be confusing trying to figure out which word to use. Check out some simple explanations of what other discussion words mean to help you decide.

Argument vs. Persuasion: Argument includes evidence to back up your point. Persuasion is your belief or opinion, or it can be the act of convincing someone to agree with you.

Argument vs. Disagreement: Arguments can be heated, but they make a point that isn’t necessarily contested. Disagreements are often heated and imply a difference of opinion.

Debate vs. Forum: A debate is a discussion. A forum is a place to have a discussion.

Discussion vs. Debate vs. Argument: Debates and arguments are types of discussions that exchange opposing views.

Conversation vs. Debate vs. Argument: Debates and arguments are types of conversations if they are spoken.

Fight vs. Debate vs. Argument: A fight is a conflict, whereas debates and arguments are exchanges of views that can be civil.

Settle the Debate: Now that you’ve seen the arguments about how “debate” and “argument” differ, the debate on how to use them is settled. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on FS.blog (Farnam Street Media, Inc.)–described as “Brain Food. A weekly newsletter packed with timeless insights and actionable ideas from a wide range of disciplines”-titled, The Ten Golden Rules of Argument” (it is a 4-minute read you can access at this link), here is a list of the ten golden rules and you can read the definitions of each at this link):

  1. Be prepared.
  2. When to argue, when to walk away.
  3. What you say and how you say it.
  4. Listen and listen again.
  5. Excel at responding to arguments.
  6. Watch out for crafty tricks.
  7. Develop the skills of arguing in public.
  8. Be able to argue in writing.
  9. Be great at avoiding deadlock.
  10. Maintain relationships.

No matter what we call it (whether we call it an argument, a debate, or a fight), there is often a need for conflict resolution. As Christians (for those of us who consider ourselves to be Christians), conflict resolution involves actions and attitudes taken from a Biblical perspective. GotQuestions.org provides the following information on conflict resolution from a Biblical perspective:

Conflict resolution in the body of Christ is crucial for several reasons. Avoidance of conflict, with no effort to resolve it, postpones a proper response and exacerbates the problem because conflicts that are allowed to fester unaddressed will always increase and have negative effects on relationships within the body. The goal of conflict resolution is unity, and unity in the church poses a threat to the devil who will use every opportunity to take advantage of unresolved issues, especially those involving anger, bitterness, self-pity, and envy. These emotions are involved in most church conflicts. Scripture tells us that we’re to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Failure to obey this command results in division in the body of Christ and grief to the Holy Spirit. We’re also told not to allow a “root of bitterness” to spring up among us, leading to trouble and defilement (Hebrews 12:15). Clearly, a biblical method of conflict resolution is needed.

The New Testament has multiple commands to believers that are demonstrative of living at peace with one another. We are repeatedly instructed to love one another (John 13:34Romans 12:10), to live in peace and harmony with one another (Romans 15:5Hebrews 12:14), to settle our differences among ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:11), to be patient, kind, and tenderhearted toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:4), to consider others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), to bear one another’s burdens (Ephesians 4:2), and to rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Conflict is the antithesis of Christian behavior as outlined in Scripture.

There are times when, despite all efforts to reconcile, various issues prevent us from resolving conflict in the church. There are two places in the New Testament that clearly and unambiguously address conflict resolution where sin is involved. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gives the steps for dealing with a sinning brother. According to this passage, in the event of conflict involving overt sin, we are to address it one-on-one first, then if still unresolved it should be taken to a small group, and finally before the whole church if the problem still remains.

The other passage where this is addressed explicitly is Luke 17. In verses 3-4, Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” An essential part of conflict resolution is forgiveness. Any kind of disciplinary procedure should always have restoration of the sinning person as the ultimate goal.

Sometimes conflict has to do with style preferences or personality clashes more so than it has to do with sin, per se. In such cases, we do well to check our own motives and remember to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3–4). If we do have a genuine disagreement with someone over stylistic preferences—the best way to accomplish a certain ministry goal, the church budget, how a church service should flow, etc.—we should engage in discussion and come to mutual agreement. In Philippians 4:2–3, Paul pleads for Euodia and Syntyche “to be of the same mind in the Lord” and for others to help them. We must humble ourselves to truly listen to one another, striving for peace within the body (Romans 12:1618). We should also seek God’s wisdom and direction (James 1:5). It is true that sometimes it is best to part ways in recognition that God has different calls on our lives. But we should do our best never to divide in anger.

The reason conflict resolution is so difficult is that we’re hesitant to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We’re also frequently unwilling to humble ourselves enough to admit that we might be wrong or to do what it might take to make amends if we are wrong. Those who do conflict resolution best are often those who would prefer not to confront others about their sin, but still do so out of obedience to God. If the matter is relatively minor, it may be that the best thing to do is to practice forbearance and overlook the offense (Proverbs 19:11). If it cannot be overlooked, one must pursue reconciliation. This is such an important issue to God that peace with Him and peace with others are inextricably entwined (Matthew 5:23–24). (Quote source here.)

Al Lopus, Cofounder & Board Chair of Best Christian Workplaces Institute, offers these 5 Tips to Resolve Conflict.” He writes about conflict resolution in the workplace, but these five tips are good in any type of conflict situation. Here are his five tips:

(1) Inquire

Before engaging in conflict resolution, ask yourself these two questions:

    • “What is my personal communication style?”(Assertive? Straightforward? Win-win?)

Now, ask yourself:

    • “What is my conflict style?” (Avoidance?  Victim mentality?  Passive-aggressive? Win at all costs?) Increased self-awareness on both levels can help you create a productive approach to conflict that is responsibly direct.

(2) Pause (and pray)

There’s wisdom in the old adage, “First, count to ten.” When we’re angry or stressed, our best thoughts are crowded out, and our thinking isn’t sharp. Bob Hostetler writes in Guideposts:

“If you’ve ever read much in the Psalms, the prayer book and hymnal of ancient Israel, you’ve come across a word that gives many Bible scholars pause. Literally. The word is ‘selah.’ It occurs frequently in the Psalms. . . .Whatever ‘selah’ meant to ancient Israelites, it can be a part of your prayer life. You can turn pauses into prayer.”

(3)  Reflect

A pause moment, and your prayer,  offers you the gift to reflect and consider:

    • What really happened?
    • What was my part in the conflict?
    • What could God be teaching me?
    • Is there a Scripture that addresses my situation?
    • What could be the other person’s reason for disagreeing?
    • What would it look like to either confront, extend grace—or do both? 

The tipping point of successful conflict resolution is to ask yourself, “Am I able to make a deliberate decision to forgive the other person, even if they created significant losses and grief in my life?” This is an opportunity for you to make sure God has spoken into the conflict.

(4) Reach out

True resolution comes to life as you take responsibility for your part in the conflict and listen to the other party: I know you’re upset, and I’m ready to apologize if you’re ready to talk about this.” Be mindful that the other person may need more time to process the situation. Be patient. More than hoping to be understood, seek to understand the other person.

(5) Submit

Leaders are stewards of their organizations. In light of our inevitable workplace disagreements, stewardship demands we address conflict head-on. May we have the courage to be open to the question James asks: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” (James 4:1). Our answer can strengthen our resolve to seek and submit to the One “who yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5). (Quote source here.)

There will always be conflicts popping up in our lives and in our world. James 4 provides us with information on what is often the cause behind our conflicts. I’ll end this post with the words from the Apostle Paul found in Romans 12:18 that include some of the best advice we can get when it comes to conflict resolution. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you…

Live . . .

At peace . . .

With everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by Toby Mac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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