Civility is the virtue of treating others with respect regardless of their opinions. It’s an ingredient that decides whether friendships will be made or if tempers will flare. As my father always says “If we both agree all the time then one of us isn’t necessary.” Without a doubt some of my most rewarding friendships have been with people with whom I vehemently disagree.
But that’s the best part. Civility doesn’t minimize differences. It relishes the discussion because it pursues one of two outcomes. Option numero uno, I convince you to see things a different way because you matter and truth matters. That’s called proselytizing and it’s a good thing. If I am utterly convinced of a profound truth then I am obligated as a decent human being to try and convince you of that truth. Not doing so means either that particular truth is insignificant or you are insignificant.
Or the second choice, you show me a side of the argument I hadn’t considered yet and cause me to reevaluate something. Sometimes this means I abandon a line of logic and defend my point a different way and other times it means I acknowledge the validity of your point and change my mind. Both of these goals should be worth striving for and yet we should be completely fine with nobly failing to achieve either of them. Even if the argument ends in a stalemate, which is most frequently the case, I had to remember why I think a certain way and see if it holds up to scrutiny – which is unquestionably a good thing. Or we could just settle for shallow underpinnings for some of the most fundamental questions and simple direct ad hominem attacks at those who disagree. Your choice.
I have both participated in and moderated my fair share of bar top debates. Some elevated emotions and nothing else, while others deepened friendships and even highlighted points of agreement within the argument. That’s called empathy - trying to see the world through their eyes. In the words of Timothy Keller “You don’t have the right to disagree with someone until you can explain their argument in the strongest way possible.” Nothing is gained from victoriously defeating straw men arguments. Instead we should recognize both the dignity of the other person and the values that underpin their perspective.
But none of this will happen if we don’t abandon the stale talking points and actually engage with each other. Find out where they are coming from and why they think that way. It may just be that you’re wrong. Or that I’m wrong. Either way, it’s best if we just leave the bitterness to the IPAs and relish the relationships as much as that trendy food and fantastic beer selection. Cheers.