I’ve never been fond of conflict.
I mean, who is, right? Nobody likes conflict; it’s faux pas to desire anything other than peace. And as “Miss Congeniality” dictates, “world peace” is a required goal for all members of society.
But while nobody enjoys an atmosphere of discord, I always took it to a new level. While most people simply hate conflict, I hated all forms and branches of it. Debates, disagreements and disputes all seem the same to me. I couldn’t see the positivity and potential in any of them.
I grew up in a family that fought relatively little. Other than the unavoidable arguments that any family with pubescent children may have (fighting for control over the remote control, the right to shave our legs and the right to enjoy the nonexistent suburban night life for just one hour longer), our disputes were relatively few and sparse.
I am not claiming that my family was perfect. Oh, we had disagreements, all right. There was tension between the different ideologies of my parents, bitter undertones of harbored resentment between parent and child and obvious frustrations between all members. We all messed up badly and got hurt deeply at one point or another. However — and I don’t know why this is — we all tried our absolute hardest to keep outward debate and discord to a minimum, to stunt any expression of the discontent we had inside and to avoid topics that we couldn’t agree on altogether. The extent to which we went to avoid sensitive subjects was almost laughable, especially for a family. Was it because of our Asian culture? Or was it simply a collective and secret desire to at least forge a pseudo-environment of peace? Whatever the reason, I never got to practice my hand at argument much.
Because of this, I grew up with a soft heart — not softhearted as in empathizing deeply with others, adopting kittens off the street and hugging my friends when they are in need of a shoulder — but softhearted in terms of getting scared when people yell at me and clamming up when friends voice their frustrations.
Even if I had the strongest opinions, whenever I entered a situation in which my views were tested, I would much rather say, “Let’s agree to disagree,” than allow for a bit of opinionated banter. Or, in more mature cases, I would end arguments with, “Okay, yeah, whatever,” to portray the great extent of my wit. I was always willing to compromise before the argument even started. But as I ventured out into the world, I began to painfully realize that not everyone is this adamant about avoiding dispute.
Many people encourage the spirit of debate. Perhaps this is common knowledge to you, but this was novel for to me.
What? People can have different political opinions, argue the most controversial points, throw in some words of profanity and still be friends? I didn’t realize that debate doesn’t necessarily turn all opposed parties into enemies.
As I began to consider why I hated arguing and open debate, I realized that often times, more than just making me uncomfortable, it put my pride at risk. I didn’t want to take the chance of losing the argument.
Arguments, for me, used to always have a winner and a loser, and losing is something that I still detest. I am, however, coming to learn that dispute and conflict are not necessarily finite and definitive. They can encourage banter and end with both parties thoroughly enlightened yet consistent with their original opinions. There isn’t always a winner or a loser.
Anyways, the word “dispute,” comes from the Latin word “disputare,” with “putare” meaning “to think.” Why be afraid of a mere discussion of thoughts?
Berkeley, especially, is a hub of discussion. Coming here, I’ve realized that disputes, arguments and debates are not necessarily negative things. They refine thought, solidify opinion and, if anything, enlighten all participating parties. They should not always be avoided; how else will you know that you are truly sure of your opinion unless you have heard many counter arguments?
So this is my request to you. Don’t be afraid to check out things that you don’t agree with. Don’t make friends of only the same ethnicity, religion and ideology. Even if your opinions clash with others, encourage debate and encourage regulated argument.
Agreeing to disagree does not have to mean that you are agreeing to give up on trying to convince one another. Instead, you can agree to actively disagree, to actively dispute and argue, and ultimately, refine your opinion.