Kindness in the Arena

Anyone that knows me well enough will say that I have a certain passion for argumentation. (I’m submitting that for Euphemism of the Year.) I like to picture myself as Maximus Decimus from Gladiator: confident, precise, and determined. Getting closer to the truth, if you put me in the arena, I can be a little rough around the edges.

One thing I’ve always admired about my brother Garett is his incredible tact; he can disagree without being disagreeable. (As semantical note, Garrett is technically my brother-in-law but my biological brother Josh and I have long agreed that this distinction hides more than it shows.) He has this way of pushing back, then pulling together two disparate view points in order to find some common ground. It’s something that I often struggle with in the heat of an argument and I’m always grateful when he’s around to help nudge me in the right direction.

I thought of him when I hung out for a few days with a Chilean journalism student named Antonia. We met on a bus across the Chilean-Bolivian border and she offered to show me around Santiago when I made my way there after visiting San Pedro de Atacama. She’s interested in international relations - the field of my undergraduate studies - and we talked a lot about the way the world is changing as we strolled around Santiago. What I noticed is that like Garrett, she has the same natural ability to not bite down too hard in a discussion and keep things moving and it led to some great conversations.

I’m grateful that I have an aggressive instinct when it comes to the debate of ideas. I think that with the right people, it can push the conversation to more useful and interesting places. With that said, I’m also aware that I don’t always need that killer instinct. Sometimes, it’s much better to connect ideas and to bridge gaps. It’s from random connections like Antonia and close people in my life like Garrett that I hope to learn how to do just that.