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Winning the Battle but Losing the War

Winning the Battle but Losing the War

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"I got my way in the end," a friend of mine announced proudly after emerging the victor in a long ongoing dispute he was having with a mutual friend of ours. "He'll never start with me again," he added. "Aren't you happy for me?"

Because this was the first time I had heard about this issue, I asked for more details. It became apparent to me that while my friend may have won the battle, he had lost the war. In his case, he has won the dispute but lost a friend.

I shared with him the following saying: "It is our anger that gets us into a fight and it is our ego that keeps us there." People tend to go on fighting about issues even when they are no longer relevant or when their original importance has diminished. They do this for the sake of proving a point and to demonstrate that they are the winners and, more importantly, that the other person is the loser. But often the one who loses the most in the long run is the "victor" himself.

As the wisest of all men, King Solomon, said: "Without strategies a nation will fall, but salvation lies in much counsel" (Proverbs 11:14). To me, this means we are so caught up by our egos and our opinions that we may miss some very important points and end up losing more then we gain .

"What should I have done?" my friend wanted to know. "I didn't feel that it was an ego thing -- I was convinced that I was fighting for the principle!" I offered the following advice: "When you are having a dispute with someone, it is wise to seek out the opinions of three of your friends."

Obviously, the people you seek advice from should have an understanding of the issues involved; after all, you wouldn't ask for financial advice from a person who is bankrupt or relationship advice from a person who has a poor record of human relationships. They also have to be people whose egos are not involved and who have no ax to grind with the person with whom you are in the dispute; their advice will therefore be based on what is best for you in this situation. But no less important is that they should be real friends -- people who care for you enough to tell you what you need to hear rather then what you want to hear.

Remember that asking for advice does not show a weakness on your part, but rather a strength that you are smart enough to realize that you are not perfect and that because you are so emotionally involved, you are seeking independent advice.

While it is always pleasing to win an argument, it leaves a bitter aftertaste in the lives of everyone involved -- the "winner" as well as the person who lost. My friend would have to decide whether the consequence of losing a friend is a price he is prepared to pay for the pleasure of winning the battle.

Rabbi Yaakov Lieder has served as a teacher and principal, and in a variety of other educational positions, for more than 30 years in Israel, the U.S., and Sydney, Australia. He is the founder and director of the Support Centre to aid families struggling with relationship and child-rearing issues. Click here for more articles by Rabbi Lieder.
About the artist: Sarah Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Discussion (1)
July 11, 2009
War
There will always be men who do evil. There will always be men who do good. There will always be men of ignorance. There will always be men of knowledge. God only made the very few, wise.
Anonymous
North platte, Ne
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