I had a prolonged discussion about a certain issue with a group of people earlier today. As such discussions go, things heat up, links are thrown, judgments are made and in the end, someone usually backs off - hopefully with a renewed sense of, “Maybe I should look into this further,” or, “What if I’m wrong about this?”
However, hours after the original discussion, I gave the matter some more thought, and I think all said and done, I was wrong.
I wasn’t wrong in that I tried to defend the oppressed, helpless and the weak - those I was taught to raise my voice for, defend and if I could, protect. I wasn’t wrong in my defense either. I think I made cogent arguments and at the end of the thread, I think I made several points that were quite clear and made the position of those arguing against me appear even to them as quite precarious.
I was wrong because I was motivated to do so by reasons and emotions that were wrong.
I did it not because I deeply cared about the individuals I was debating the subject with. I didn’t do it with compassion. Worse, it wasn’t motivated by love - what my purpose in life should be if I am to be true to myself and those who made me who I am.
This might sound a bit cheesey, but it’s not. It matters what motivates us to do what we do. It matters because in the grand scheme of things, it’s not just about the arguments, the points and the evidence. It’s also about why and more importantly, HOW they are presented.
That countless spiritual teachers in the past have told us to do things out of love is no coincidence. It isn’t because emotions evoke emotions. Motivations can be sensed and provoke and reinforce other motivations.
Selfishness provokes further selfishness.
If I’m to argue in favor of a certain point that seeks to protect people in such a way as to make it all about myself and how good I am at arguing points, the people in the debate with me will sense it - even if I do it in the most careful way possible and disguise it beneath layers and layers of eloquence. It’s because no matter how good you are with words, your sub-conscience will get involved and quietly give hints as to the true reason why you are saying what you’re saying.
Those reading or listening to your words will sense your sub-conscience’s hints and realize that they are dealing with an individual who may be concerned about his own appearance even more so than the point he’s trying to argue in favor of. In other words: she/he’s arguing for the arguments sake, not because she/he cares about the issue or far worse - to make himself look good.
And there’s a high likelihood that instead of understanding the points and being forced to reconsider their position, they would dismiss all the points based on the negativity of my motivation. Worse, they might even feel that the people that I was arguing in favor of are indeed worth their hatred because they’re being defended by selfish and self-centered individuals.
And that’s a terrible outcome indeed. In my discussions with others and in self-reflections, I’m reminded every day of how difficult it is to deal with hatred. How hard it can get to watch people spew inanities to prove that others deserve to be treated harshly because of who they are or what they believe in. It gets mind-numbing at times. It’s demoralizing and indeed can make us feel like we’re little. Small. Worthless. Our actions meaningless.
However, to use an opportunity to spread love and understanding to up your own morals and add to your own self-worth might sometimes end up hurting the same people you are trying to protect and entrench the hatred of the people you are trying to evoke love in.
So I’m sorry. I wish I hadn’t and I hope I don’t repeat this in the future. Maybe writing this will serve as a lesson.
— Your Josh —