Social media, the Internet and the interconnectedness of technology has not only given us access to unprecedented amounts of information, it’s also given us each our own mini-platform to voice our opinions.
But just because we all now have the information and power to engage in debates—both online and in our face-to-face relationships—doesn’t mean we always should. There are some topics that have become so sensitive, that unless you’re looking for an argument , it’s best to avoid.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about—or even talk about hot button issues—but several topics have become so sensitive, that unless they are approached in compassion and openness, we risk just starting a fight.
Here are five things it’s not worth your time to argue over.
Current Events You Aren’t Completely Informed About
There are two kinds of people when it comes to who’s engaging in debates about current event-related issues: People who are nearly experts about the situation, and people who have just a base-line knowledge of it. There’s usually no middle ground.
In an age where news headlines are inescapable and non-stop, and complex stories from around the world are condensed into 140-character Tweets, it’s easy to know a little about a lot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s simply a reality. We all live busy lives, and it’s just not possible know about every available piece of information regarding breaking news stories. But just because we’ve heard the talking points regarding some international happening, doesn’t mean we’re equipped to argue about them.
Before getting into a debate about healthcare and immigration, climate change and scandals, make sure you’ve taken the time to educate yourself on the details and nuance. Or, simply be willing to listen to—instead of argue with—someone who has.
If you want to start a heated argument that likely won’t end with any sort of resolution, disagree with a friend who’s passionate about one of the following topics regarding education: Common Core standards, whether or not parents should homeschool their children, the merits of attending public vs. Christians school, how evolution, intelligent design and the science of the origins of the universe should be taught. All of these issues are certainly worthy of measured, considerate discussion, but for some reason, they’ve each become so politically loaded that it’s virtually impossible to respectfully disagree about them without having the conversation descend into an impossible stalemate.
Whether or not new state standards are adopted won’t be determined by a Facebook thread debate. Thankfully, if we don’t like a system, we have the ability to vote for policies and leaders that we do agree with. And, for the most part, individual parents are allowed to make their own decisions about their kid’s education. Unnecessarily involving others—or becoming involved in others’ decisions—probably isn’t a good move. That is, unless you like starting an argument.
Personal Health Choices
Whether you agree with it or not, parents are allowed to opt-out of some vaccinations for their kids. Consumers are permitted to advocate against the use of GMOs. Individuals with actual allergies (as well as self-diagnosed aliment) can choose the gluten-free option when ordering at a restaurant. Even if you disagree with their decision, think their advocacy is misguided or like poking fun at health-related culinary trends, most of the time when it comes to health issues, it’s not worth voicing your opinion when you’re not asked for it.
Sure, if you’re a doctor or nutritionist, you could provide your friends with valuable insight into their personal health decisions (if they even want to hear it), but if viewing some Netflix documentaries or reading stuff on the Internet is the basis of your expertise, it’s likely a waste of time to start an argument. Both sides of modern debates about science and health are backed with all kinds of research (with varying degrees of legitimacy). In the era of the Internet, anyone can find validation for any opinion they want—arguing with them, likely won’t change anything.
Buy the food you want. Go to the doctors you like. And vote for the leaders that represent your values—they’re the ones who make regulatory decisions, not your roommate who just came home with a kind of granola you don’t like.
Christianity is the single biggest religion on the planet: More than 30 percent of the entire global population claims to be members of the faith. With billions of people all holding to the same religious beliefs, there’s going to be some disagreements about how it should be practiced. Nowhere is that more clear than the modern American evangelical church.
Inevitably, some pastors are going to preach things about the end times, church structure, politics and Genesis that you don’t agree with. Christians could literally spend all of their time picking apart the teachings of leaders that see things differently.
There are important theological issues worthy of our time and attention, and mature believers should have little difficulty discerning which topics those are. Mature believers should also know how to listen to the other side before they speak, and maintain a relationship strong enough to survive a debate.
Truth is important, but so is unity. If you are concerned about a friend or family member who is succumbing to questionable teaching, talk to them in love—not like someone coming to pick an intellectual fight. Thoughtful debate about theology is a powerful way to learn and grow—but randomly bashing churches, books and leaders you have nothing to do with rarely accomplishes anything good.
The Bible is clear on a lot of principles when it comes to relationships and family. It’s also totally silent on many more.
Debating someone about their kid’s bedtime, how much quality time they spend with their spouse, the ways they choose to spend their own money or who they’re dating can lead to ugly rifts in relationships.
For most people, how they raise their kids, interact with their spouse, deal with their parents or care for relatives in need are deeply personal decisions. You may not agree with how they do things, but unless you’re legitimately trying to protect or help a friend, typically, starting an argument isn’t going to change their minds.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.