[Editor’s Note: This column was combined from two posts at Coleman’s blog.]
When you’re debating someone online for like 15 to 20 minutes, somebody that isn’t even listening to you, somebody who’s making you feel worse and making you feel exhausted, the conversation isn’t going anywhere….why not consider the possibility of taking that time and giving it to somebody that you love?
As valuable as it is to express outrage and argue over people and ideas, you can also promote a freer society by talking with people who care about you and will listen to you, and you can sow the seeds of positivity, faith and love and hope in their lives.
I have one living grandparent. He lives in Mississippi and is 97 years old. It’s been ages since I spoke with him. The other day I called him up and we spoke for about 20 minutes. Ain’t gonna lie. It was a hard conversation to have. He doesn’t hear all that well, so I had to repeat nearly everything I said. The generational gap was clear as I struggled to answer his questions about the kind of farming we do out here in California.
But you know what? That man appreciated my time and energy about a 100 times more than anybody I’ve ever debated online. My feeble attempts to say things that he might find relevant and interesting went much further than any of the knockdown arguments, philosophical refutations and overly serious responses I’ve made to people on the internet.
I will always be the type of cat who values critical thinking and sound reasoning. In fact, that’s exactly why I encourage you all to think critically about your online interactions with people who dispute your claims and beliefs.
Don’t run from a challenge just because it makes you uncomfortable. Philosophical challenges are good for you. But also don’t neglect the value of making sure you’re using your time on conversations that actually seem to be moving in a constructive direction.
It’s one thing to explore ideas. It’s another thing to wear yourself out because you lack the discernment to realize when you’re in the middle of a pointless pissing contest.
If all you’re interested in doing is making yourself look right or righteous, then complaining is the way to go. If all you’re looking to do is blow off some steam, express frustration and release a little anger without regard to achieving any further results, then complaining is the way to go.
If you’re interested, however, in things like making art, building businesses, commanding respect from your peers, breaking self-defeating habits, improving your relationships, evading mediocrity or just getting (stuff) done, then complaining won’t do anything for you until you stop doing it and start directing your thoughts, words, and activities towards a constructive ideal.
You have a right to keep complaining.
You have a reason to keep complaining.
But neither of those things will get you a reward for complaining.
Rewards only belong to those who commit to the process of wishing for new things, imagining new things, trying new things, and creating new things.
If you’re happy with a life of complaining, keep on complaining.
But if you don’t like the results you’re getting, maybe it’s time to start a new conversation and a new course of action.
T.K. Coleman is the education director for Praxis and an adjunct faculty member for the Foundation for Economic Education.