Zoom Meeting Sermon December 11 2022

 

Topic: The Value of Backing Down

“Never back down.” You have heard it. I have heard it. It is embedded in the American consciousness and has been for quite some time. It shows up in film, on television, in books, even in songs. The statement itself evokes a fist in the air, defying powerful opposition. It means standing your ground against all odds.

It is also bullshit; there are situations in which backing down is the only logical reaction. Some arguments are not worth winning, and some people are not worth arguing with. It is okay for other people to hold different opinions than you, and it is even okay for other people to be wrong. If you find yourself getting into a heated disagreement over something petty, there is nothing wrong with just letting it go. You do not have to let things disturb your inner peace. As we journey toward Enlightenment, we must realize that maintaining our Serenity is more important than being right all the time. This is not to say that you should not stand up for what you believe in; just pick your battles carefully. Stand your ground when you are fighting against injustice or oppression. Let it slide if you are arguing about pineapple on pizza.

There are also situations in which standing your ground makes you that one insufferable asshole that nobody invites to parties. Some people will turn every casual conversation into a life-or-death debate, and seem willing to die on every hill they climb. You see this a lot with conspiracy theorists; they will bring up their favorite topic and shoehorn it into every discussion. It is best not to argue with somebody who does this, unless it is for sheer entertainment value. It is also important to avoid becoming that person; watch your words and pay attention to how people respond. We all have our hobby-horses, our soapboxes. Mine is cannabis and its many benefits, as most of you already know, but I have had to learn when to bring it up and when to keep it to myself. And I would never get into an argument with somebody over it. If somebody dislikes pot for whatever reason, I just refrain from discussing it with them. I am not going to change their mind, and they are unlikely to change mine, so a debate would be pointless.

“Never back down” also implies that you are always right, about everything, and you will never grow as a person as long as you believe that. We learn through our mistakes and by listening to the ideas and information presented by other people. It also usually means that you will not allow any evidence to sway your opinion, which makes you willfully ignorant. The Path teaches us to always seek the Truth, even if it does not always turn out to be what we expected, and that means being willing to back down and accept new information.

Backing down is also a survival strategy. This ties in with the false dichotomy of fight versus flight; we are talking about flopping or friending instead of fighting or fleeing. Although American culture seems to consider these the “weaker” options, it actually takes a lot more skill and finesse to befriend a belligerent stranger than it does to respond with violence. When we add flopping or friending to our social skillset, we are giving ourselves other options that usually fit the situation better than responding with anger or violence would. There is no better way to defeat an opponent than to make him an ally. When that is not possible, the next-best response is to let it go. With enough Self-Control, we can train ourselves never to react in anger; of all the emotions, anger is the least productive and most harmful. Those who follow the Path should never allow anger to dictate our actions.

Knowing when to stand firm and when to let it go takes Mindfulness, Patience, Effort, and Self-Control, and helps us maintain our Serenity. As followers of the Path, we are challenged to exercise these Virtues so that we may further our journey toward Enlightenment.

Have there been times when you had to back down from an argument? Have there been times when you stood your ground when you should have let it go?

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