From birth, we do it. Before we are verbal, we scream, cry, and throw fits. Then we discover words are more powerful than physical blows — powerful enough to kill us. An eleven-year study published its results in early May in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health: “Excessive arguing may shorten life.”
Middle-aged adults, ages 36 to 52, who argued frequently (as opposed to rare disagreements) with spouses were twice as likely to die young; with friends, 2.6 times more likely; with neighbors, more than three times more likely. Stewing over the demands of others can also lead to an early grave.
We squabble over much more than who takes out the garbage. Increased information access and social media sharing give us more ways to vent but do not necessarily increase communication skills. Comedian Dan Bennett mixes physical comedy into a routine he applies to helping corporate clients work through problems, defining an argument as “the longest distance between two points of view.”
In a world gone angry we quickly define blowups with words like “Arab Spring,” then must swallow bad decisions when expectations become “Arab Winter.” Quick decisions in personal lives lead to quick dating, quicker living together, the quickest marriages followed by quickie divorces. Quick decisions by volcanic nations can potentially lead to world annihilation.
All this from mid-life angst? That was just one study. We see altercations increasing among all ages. Families of the 9/11 victims have disagreed throughout the tragedy’s aftermath. The worst uproar yet concerns the disposition of the 3,000 dead. The human remains — jumbled together and unidentifiable—are to rest in a repository 70 feet underground below the National September 11 Memorial Museum. To some, that is a desecration; to others, it is a fitting place.
No matter where we place remains, the person is gone. Our hope is not a wrestling match with dust but a belief that there is a God-prepared place where we will meet again. Forgiveness and walking extra miles bring life; arguing brings death.
Pope Francis calls for a redistribution of wealth. Instead of working together to solve the world’s poverty problem, we debate words like “socialism.”
Many fight against prayer in public meetings, but the Supreme Court just ruled again on its legality with this stipulation: “The content of the prayers is not significant as long as they do not denigrate non-Christians or try to win converts.” No doubt, there will be those who continue to set themselves to wrangle over every prayer.
The world’s ice sheets are melting at a faster rate than anticipated. Scientists are alarmed and say it is “unstoppable,” forebodes dire consequences, and is likely caused by manmade global warming and the ozone hole. Instead of speeding up some common sense measures, we lock horns over whether this is real or not.
“Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). We can be wise and feisty (life) instead of angry (death).
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together—side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.