Monday, July 16, 2012

I Failed

A couple posts ago, I invited readers to grade me on how I conducted a debate.  I thought I would have kept everything civil, thus the invite to grade me.  ;-)  As it turned out, that debate went very poorly, in fact it was probably the worst debate I've had in many years.  The strength of my argument was still good, but the strength of my tone was just too much.  I was enjoying belittling my opponent's mistakes a little too much.

And the worst part for me was that my opponent just didn't get how badly he was being beaten!  :-p  It was like having a battle of wits with an unarmed person.  ;-)

Seriously though, I've reflected on what happened... how and why did it go the horrible way it went.

Ad hominem attacks.  My opponent started with one, and then it was downhill from there.  But that's not the whole story...

I strive to enlighten people, but you can only enlighten people when they are ready for it.

I had dealt with this opponent before, and he had not exactly been a pleasure to deal with.  It is hard to interpret just from text, but he seemed to be one of those types of people who do not fully consider what you say.  Instead, they just instantly bounce back with why their opinion is right.  That's difficult to discern, because if you have a strong knowledge of the topic, it can seem as though you are not giving the other side its proper consideration.

With this being the second time I had dealt with this opponent, and based on how he started the debate without having done proper research of my position which he was attacking, I had gotten the sense that he was just out to try to make me look foolish.

I really don't need his help.  I can look foolish all by myself, thank you very much.  :-)

So, I think the little switch flipped in my brain which said "this guy is not into a meaningful discussion," and so I treated it that way.  I defended my points, but I insulted him too often along the way, as it was convenient.  In that process, if he really had been there for a meaningful discussion, well, he surely would have changed his mind to align with my prejudiced perception of him. ;-)

Therein lies the fault. You can't convince people in a debate when you are insulting them.  In what I am trying to do, I should be acting more like an ambassador, and keep my arguments concise to the topics at hand, not the character of my opponents.

So I am going to promise to myself to keep debates as topic-focused as possible going forward.  But you know what?  It is really fun to be snarky at times.  I'm going to miss that.


  1. I think most of us now and then get lured into a pissing contest with someone or another person on the net. It's all but inevitable.

    I don't think it's worth kicking oneself over unless it becomes an addiction. Then it's time to get a new hobby.

    At least that's how I see it.

  2. It felt to me as though I'd stumbled on an argument in a hallway as other bystanders looked around nervously.

    I don't know enough about the Bible to comment one way or another on your original post, but it seemed reasonable and non-threatening. Then you were pounced upon, and, as you say, it went downhill from there with lots of anger coming at you.

    Reading your sincere appraisal of the situation was, to me, of greater value than the debate that stimulated it.

  3. It is too easy to be lured into a pissing contest, isn't it Sunstone? That's why I think a little bit of beating myself up is healthy to keep myself in line. I was having a lot of fun beating the guy up. I'd definitely agree with you, so I am trying not to get addicted to that type of fun.

    Paul, thanks for the kind words. I know, for me, that the appraisal was worth more to me than the debate. I'm glad it was of some value to you as well. :-)

  4. I don't have the patience to read the debate. But I must say, I have use you as one of my models of an excellent, patient, kind, thoughtful debator. I have seen you as much better than myself and have learned from listening to you. Even your confession here is consistent with how I view you.

    Keep up the fine work.
    BTW -- of topic, what is your favorite parallel gospel translation (both hard copy and digital).
    Thanks. I have a project in mind.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Sabio! I certainly try to be that kind of debater. :-)

    Regarding a parallel Gospel, believe it or not, I've gone through a considerable effort to construct my own parallel. I wanted to better understand how you had to rip it apart and re-shuffle it in order to make it work. I've used Matthew as the master timeline (because I figured people may be most familiar with that one, as the first Gospel in most Bibles) and tried to fit everything else into it, and match up as best as I could.

    However, I did occasionally lean on these two, primarily for ideas on where to put John's content.

    I don't have a hard copy. :-p

    If you'd like, I can send you mine, although it is probably not as refined as others. Every so often I find I need to change it. Mine is in Open Office format, but I can send you another format if you'd like.