Being polite and not arguing with anyone is a good rule of thumb for anyone. Especially if one forgets that they live in a small town and decides to have road rage on the driver in front of them only to realize that the driver is in fact their best friend. Or family member.
Or worse, their in-laws.
In general, it’s good practice to be polite and kind in our daily interactions with others. The Dene Law of not arguing speaks to not harming anyone both in our actions and in our words.
Of course, it is easier said than done.
Words when spoken can’t be taken back. My mother always teased that I was born with a temper and she is probably right. I know that I am not always soft and mild mannered and there are many times that I have said what I was thinking out loud to someone in a heated discussion.
It really hurt and offended that person, even though I didn’t mean what I said. At the time, maybe I did, but those words that so easily fell from my mouth will probably never be forgotten even as they might have been forgiven.
It is true that words are often more powerful than actions. Practicing the art of holding our tongue is almost always better than saying something that one might regret once the storm has passed. At least that is one thing that we can hold onto for sure – the knowing that the storm always passes.
The practice of controlling our anger and remaining calm in the face of an oncoming argument without reacting often comes with a certain maturity. Most adults don’t run around hitting each other like two-year old’s, even though sometimes it might feel like someone deserves a swat for being a jerk. Most people know better and don’t allow their anger to get the best of them.
This Dene law advises us not to show anger, and in a way, it almost seems that it is implying that one should suppress their feelings.
But this is not what the law means. It is okay to be angry, but a person must be able to control their anger and express it in a safe way. This is difficult to do because anger is often used to mask true feelings of sadness and fear and it can come on quickly with no time to think. Anger is a defense mechanism. When a person feels mistreated and in a position where they feel vulnerable and unable to defend themselves or be honest about their feelings, the only option they might feel they have is to lash out.
Difficult to be civilized
Being kind and patient with someone who is angry is hard to do when tempers flare. To turn the other cheek, as the saying goes, is so hard to do when a person is placed in a position of having to be on guard from another person’s attack and is difficult to try and have a civilized conversation when in the heat of the moment in an escalated situation. A prime example is being involved in road rage.
Sometimes it is impossible to avoid arguing with someone because of stubborn behaviors, certain stances on the point of tension and strong differing beliefs. These can get in the way of resolution. Sometimes there is no other option other than to stand up for yourself and be assertive, knowing the difference between that and crossing the line towards aggression. Then there are times when a heated debate is better off left alone without engaging in confrontation. Words are sometimes better left unsaid. Silence can say so much and it can give time for the other person to calm down.
We cannot know the impact that our words and actions can have on someone which is why it’s so important to be polite and avoid arguing as much as possible; not because we are afraid or because we agree with that person, but because we are enlightened and understand that reacting to a dispute in the same manner as the person who is angry can have negative consequences to ourselves and others.
That is the whole point of the Dene Law of being polite and not arguing with others.