Healthy debate is good. Our country is founded on principals that encourage people to debate topics so that by doing so we arrive at a “more perfect union.” On this date in 1858 Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky-born lawyer and one-time U.S. representative from Illinois, began a series of famous public encounters on the issue of slavery. Douglas a Northern Democrat and Lincoln a Republican, were competing for Douglas’ U.S. Senate seat. There were seven Lincoln-Douglas debates (they each lasted about three hours). Lincoln argued against the spread of slavery while Douglas maintained that each territory should have the right to decide whether it would become free or slave. Lincoln lost the Senate race, but you know the rest of the story.
Sometimes it feels like we are living in a time like the years before the Civil War. Political animosity and outright hostility are the norm in political discourse. Give me healthy civil debate and I will show you progress and compromise. The Bible says in Ephesians 4, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…”
Anger may be a necessary emotion at times – many times it turns out to be more of a reaction when we feel threatened emotionally or physically – on the whole it is not a helpful emotion to our bodies or our minds. Lincoln was a leader steeped in Scripture and was wise beyond the ages. If more of our debates came out of principled thoughtful and educated positions we might be able to make more progress.
I have to remind myself daily – ACT, DON’T REACT. Act with knowledge and wisdom. Don’t simply react to negative comments or people. It’s hard but there is so much more we can accomplish when we ACT in line with our core self which is grounded in the Golden Rule.