My dad and my maternal grandfather had a unique relationship. I don’t know that there was actual animosity between them, at least not by the time I came along. They bickered a lot, though. However, never about anything of real merit.
Certainly, Grandpa wasn’t a fan of my dad’s when my parents were high school sweethearts. Once an adult with three daughters of his own, Daddy certainly understood why. From the stories that were told, Daddy was sort of a Danny Zuko with a flat-top and horn-rimmed glasses. My mom was Sandy, but she never donned tight-fitting black pants to my knowledge. She’s maintained her good girl character to this day. By the time I arrived on the scene, Daddy’s wild days were just old stories he told, which would get him an eye roll or elbow in the rib from Mom.
Here’s how these senseless bouts would go down. We’d be sitting in the living room. Grandpa would be in his LazyBoy. That was his spot. We grandkids might loiter there when he was out of the room, but the minute he returned, we’d hop out without needing a word spoken. The TV would be on. If the Cardinals were playing baseball, it would be on the game. He’d ask my dad a baiting question, and Daddy would hit that bait every time.
Often on the four-hour drive to my grandparents’ house, Mom would implore Daddy not to “get into it” with Grandpa “this time.” But he always did. Grandpa would make a few counter points to Daddy’s and then start chuckling, knowing he’d done it again. Of course, the chuckles were what really sent Daddy over the edge. In thinking about this blog post, I’ve unsuccessfully tried to remember one of the topics of their arguments. I’m positive that my lack of memory is due to their lack of merit. Grandpa just liked to irritate my dad. He just liked to pull Daddy into a dispute and then laugh at him.
As nonsensical as I found these encounters, I grew up to be quite good at being drawn into a debate and hooking others. I guess I learned from both men. Now a healthy debate on a meaningful topic can be a good thing for the mind. However, fighting about everything that two people disagree on it fatal to relationships and serenity.
The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress. – Joseph Joubert
It was during a trying time in my marriage that I first heard the following life-changing phrases: “drop the rope” and “you can choose to be happy or be right.”
A woman giving counsel on my domestic turmoil said, “Sounds like you and your husband are in a constant tug-of-war.” I nodded, looking down at my fidgeting hands. “You’re going to have to drop the rope,” she went on. My eyes flicked up to her face and before I could think about the words coming out of my mouth, I blurted, “Then how will I win?”
Initially, she laughed. I’m often sarcastic and love to lighten a serious moment with a joke. This was not what I was doing, though. I was truly that committed to winning, that this notion just utterly baffled me. I spent three years in law school and an obscene amount of money, learning to use my words to win. If this lady thinks I’m going to back down from an argument, I thought, she does not know me. I don’t work that way, period, end of story.
When she realized, that my question was sincere, she let out a sigh that said, we’ve got a lot of work to do. She went on to ask if I was really winning, why was I here talking about a broken relationship. She went on to to introduce the other phrase, “you can choose to be happy or be right.” She explained that I could keep fighting to be right, or I could be happy and live peacefully with this man. I went home with a lot to think about.
She was right, of course. I was choosing the battle over the relationship. Moreover, I was sacrificing my inner calm for vain attempts at victory. What I was doing was not working, and I could change. Not easily or without mess-ups and plenty of reminders. In fact, there were days that I practically chanted “drop the rope” in my head all day long. I’m a stubborn one, in case you have figured that out. Most of us fierce warriors are, but if these lessons came easy they wouldn’t be as valuable. I, for one, want my money’s worth.
All too often, the needless arguments that we find ourselves in could be avoided by just dropping the rope. All too often, the battle is not worth the price you pay in emotional energy.
Dropping the rope doesn’t mean you agree with the other person. I would never have done that. You simply refuse to take part. Just because you don’t counter what someone says (or posts on social media) doesn’t mean you agree. If the other person doesn’t understand that, that’s their problem. You have your peace and happiness to protect. No one else is going to do that for you.
Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute. – Josh Billings