I’m an avid follower of the teachings of financial guru Dave Ramsey, and a regular listener to his radio show, via podcast. I was listening to his show on Wednesday when I heard him read this quote:

One can be very happy without demanding that others agree with them.

Ira Gershwin — American lyricist and brother of composer and pianist George Gershwin

The quote caught me off guard because it’s a sentiment that I strongly believe in, but one which I had never quite heard put so succinctly.

I love this quote because it’s one of my principle philosophies in life. There is peace, happiness, and contentment in knowing that others may disagree with what you say, think, and feel, but that you don’t have to debate them to try to get them to agree with you.

Difference in opinion is a wonderful thing in this life, as long as it is done respectfully. Each person is unique and comes from a different background, so it’s no wonder why they might have a different perspective on a number of life’s issues.

I personally welcome hearing new details and perspectives because I’m a man who enjoys learning and gaining wisdom. In fact, that is the central theme of this entire blog: to be transformed by the renewing of the mind.

However, the line is crossed when someone goes from sharing their perspective to demanding — or expecting — that others agree with them. Or, in other words, to go from a position of wanting to help to wanting to be right and in control.

Thus, my reluctance to engage in debate.

What is a debate? There are several definitions, but the most notable one is this:

“An argument — whether civil or not — between two or more parties who hold opposing views on a particular topic.”

And what is the point of a debate? Surely, it helps bring new ideas into light, but that’s a side effect of a debate, not the purpose for one.

Ultimately, a debate occurs to try to persuade someone other than yourself to agree with what you think. My question to that logic is, why is it so important that other people think the way that we do? Do we get some kind of glory from other people telling us we’re right? Sadly, yes. It feeds the ego. But we don’t need their approval to live happy lives.

That is why I choose not to debate. If someone offers me an opinion that differs from my own, and I don’t necessarily agree with it, I will tell them I disagree and then try to change the subject, because I’m not interested in persuading them to believe me.

“That sounds closed-minded or stubborn.”

Yes, I’ve heard that before. Don’t be mistaken, though. We should still listen to others with an open mind. The point is not to shun the world and live a reclusive life. But if you listen carefully to what they say and you still don’t agree with them, there are plenty of respectful ways to change the conversation at that point without calling them a doody head and telling them they’re wrong.

I equate the act of giving an opposing viewpoint to that of generosity. Are you someone who gives to others expecting to get a thank you or some other gift in return? I sure hope not. That’s not real selfless generosity, is it? Giving a gift should come from the heart with the sole intent to make the recipient feel better.

Similarly, when you offer a perspective or opinion that differs from somebody else’s, you should give it with the intent of providing new information, rather than rule of law. And you shouldn’t be offended if that person doesn’t agree with you, because your goal should be to inform and educate, not to gain satisfaction and validation that you are correct about something.

Even as I type this now, I know that there will be some who disagree with this philosophy. And that’s fine, because I’m not trying to persuade anyone to adopt my line of thinking. As Ira Gershwin notes in the aforementioned quote, I don’t have to “demand” anyone agrees with me because I’m happy even if they don’t.

And that’s a free and liberating feeling.