In today’s first reading we are warned against “a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds.” (1 Tim 6:4-5) When you hear those words again, what comes to mind? Do you view yourself as someone who values the importance of maintaining peaceful and constructive interactions with others? Do you like a good, lively, robust debate? Of course, there is “lively” and there is “lively.”
Perhaps your discussions, debates, or arguments are all reminiscent of erudite, scholarly and principled exchanges of ideas and opinions. Or perhaps they are a little more animated tending towards scenes from the English Parliament. Do you make a point to win the discussion? Afterwards do you mention to others your prowess in that particular encounter?
Maybe you are so good at winning you notice that everyone agrees with you. Welcome to the echo chamber. Have your one-time opponents been reduced to silence… or do they just avoid you or at least avoid any conversation apart from “How ‘bout those Commanders*?” (* substitute your own local football team or favorite weekend endeavor). You may well have a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.
St. Paul highlights the destructive nature of constant quarreling and disputes. He warns against the obsession with argumentation that can lead to division, bitterness, and a breakdown of relationships. Such a disposition can not only harm personal connections but also disrupt the harmony of communities and societies at large. It serves as a reminder to prioritize peaceful and constructive dialogue over contentious debates.
Moreover, the term “morbid disposition” implies an unhealthy obsession with disputes. It suggests a preoccupation with arguments that is detrimental to one’s mental and emotional well-being. Constantly engaging in disputes can drain one’s energy, foster negative emotions, and hinder personal growth.
From a spiritual perspective, this passage reminds us that the essence of spirituality is not found in winning arguments but in living a life aligned with one’s beliefs and values – and that calls for a prioritization of faith, love, and compassion over theological or doctrinal disputes. As well, for a prioritization of those same virtues in all our discussion and exchanges.
It goes without saying that in a broader context, this passage speaks directly to today’s world, where public discourse is often characterized by polarized arguments, ad hominem attacks, and verbal clashes. It serves as a reminder that healthy, constructive dialogue is essential for the progress of society. It challenges us to engage in discussions with an open heart and a willingness to understand different perspectives, rather than merely seeking to prove ourselves right.
Where do we start? With ourselves, reflecting on our own attitudes towards arguments and disputes. Assessing the importance and priority we place on empathy, understanding, and harmony in our relationships and communities. And then deciding how we will present our Christian faith and demeanor to the world so we have a life-giving obsession in being Christ for others.
Image credit: Pexels, Mikhail Nilov, CC-BY