I’ve encountered it many times, both on my own face and on others. It’s a slight grin, a triumphant smile smothered by politeness that is accompanied by the strong feeling that you have your opponent cornered, that you’ve asked a question they either cannot, or will not answer without agreeing with you. It is a self-satisfied smirk that marks the feeling of victory in an argument.
I see it, and use it, mostly when I am arguing about my faith. I have had a good number of Protestant friends throughout my life and we’ve had a good number of discussion, debates, conversations, and arguments about the differences in our faiths. Inevitably one of us will ask a question that the other cannot answer and as soon as the other hesitates the smirk appears along with the thought “I have him on the ropes.” It’s a good feeling because I’m about to win.
But I shouldn’t want to win. My argument shouldn’t be about winning. The trouble with winning is that it puts you above another. It forces someone else to lose. No one wants to lose. When you win, you isolate those around you. When you lose, it hurts. It makes you angry, bitter even. It makes you want to win next time. It does anything but make you want to listen to the person who beat you. The trouble with winning is that it is the product of pride. We want to win because we are proud.
And when it comes to faith, the last thing we should be is proud.
I am a practicing Catholic. I’m practicing because I haven’t gotten it right yet. And we are all practicing Catholics, practicing Christians. We are all trying, and mostly failing, to be like Christ. And we have nothing to be proud about. If we boast in anything, it should be in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). It is only through God that we have the knowledge we have. It is only through Jesus that we can know the truth because Jesus is the Truth. And the Way. And the Life. (John 14:6)
Our church is divided. Catholic and Protestant fight amongst themselves, striving for victory, striving to be right. But isn’t the truth more important than victory? Isn’t understanding God more important than having your opponent on the ropes? Christ warned us that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25). And yet we, the House of God, are more divided than the Red Sea. We have pitted ourselves against each other. And while we have been fighting our internal squabbles, the rest of the world is slowly being consumed by darkness. This has to stop. There are far bigger, more important battles we need to face, and we need to face them as a Church. A whole Church. A Church that resembles her King. A Church that resembles Christ.
In seeking to win the argument, too often we lose a soul. We seek to fight the wrong battle, and Satan uses that to further our division. This isn’t about proving our neighbors in Christ wrong, it’s about seeking the truth of God. If we seek the truth, then we have nothing to fear from losing, because there is nothing to lose. The truth will always be the truth, whether it is believed or not, and anything else isn’t worth believing. If we wish to be like Christ, as all Christians should, then understanding the truth and following the way Christ marked out for us is far more important than being right.This isn’t about proving our neighbors in Christ wrong, it’s about seeking the truth of God Click To Tweet
What I am asking is not easy. It will take a great deal of humility, patience, and selfcontrol. It will mean looking your opponent in the eyes and saying things like “you’re right” and “I don’t know.” It will mean enduring that self-satisfied smirk time after time. It will mean losing arguments.
Sometimes it will mean not fighting at all. And worst of all, it probably won’t look like we’re doing anything at all. Because just being humble won’t heal the 500 year old festering wound in our church. It won’t bring Protestants and Catholics together. But it will be a step in the right direction and enough steps can take us around the world. That self-satisfied smirk does us no good, and it is doing our Church a lot of harm. It’s time to leave it behind.
About Regina Czupinski
Regina Czupinski is a nanny and writer living in Michigan. Born and raised in a loving and passionately Catholic home, Regina developed a love for her faith at a young age. That love pushed her to seek out the answers to deeper questions and eventually to study theology both in school and on her own. She earned the status as the Catholic go-to person among her friends and sees no reason why she shouldn’t own it. When not studying theology and answering questions, she works with kids and writes fiction.