13 – Arguments That Don’t Change the Point

There is such a thing as a distinction without a meaningful difference. When a Muslim or Jew is asking about the food, clarifying whether the roast beast is ham or pork won’t matter since it all comes from a pig.

Knowing what things don’t make a difference is a sign of education and upbringing.

In high school, I sat on a committee voting on my school’s curriculum. A pastor on the committee made a motion and I seconded the motion. After discussion, when it came to a vote, I voted against it. The pastor was far more entertained than insulted and gave me a comical look during the vote. After, and over a good laugh, we decided that I was not allowed to vote against a motion I had seconded, but that had I first withdrawn my second, someone else would have made a second second, and the vote would have passed just the same. So, in the greater rules of procedure, that absurd process could have been deemed moot at best and, more likely, at worst an interference with order.

The question is whether the result is the same.

Quite often, children argue with their parents about technical details that would not affect the outcome. It doesn’t matter if you hit your brother because he hit you first or called you a “silly face”, you shouldn’t ever hit your brother.

Unfortunately, many people do not outgrow this practice. It is not a mere question of adulthood. Parents easily know that their children’s attempt at filibuster are beside the deciding point. But, lawyers and judges debate among themselves the value of specific points in the final decision, even into senior years, even at the highest of courts.

Know yourself whether a distinction will make a difference. Limit yourself to ideas that affect the outcome. When others make non-differentiating distinctions, politely and comically call them out on it. Be proactive in policing your own conversations, especially your own thoughts.

Years of practice in knowing what distinctions matter will help you make better on-the-spot decisions and give you better direction in your goals, vision, values, mission, choosing friendships, settling disagreements, or even simple decisions in grocery shopping.

Proverbs 3:13; 17:28, 1 Timothy 6:4-5