Note: I wrote a column about Decision Sticks in Mesquite Local News, in 2008. A few weeks ago a person who identified himself as a ‘fan’ of mine asked me if I could get him a copy of the column. Well, my files are a mess and I was doubtful that I could locate that specific column. However, I was so overwhelmed by the use of the word ‘fan” and by the request that I promised to do a little editing and publish the column again. This one is for you TK.
Folks have been arguing and disagreeing with each other since time began. Also, for about that long, folks have been searching for the best way to settle arguments and disagreements. I believe that arguing is an instinctive response. The desire to argue usually manifests itself as soon as a child discovers that using the word “NO” gets them attention and continues for a lifetime.
Young children say “NO” because they enjoy having anyone (preferably a grown up) focus undivided attention on them. The urge to argue continues because most of us enjoy attention and arguing is an easy way to focus attention on oneself. It is understandable that arguing can become a habit that is difficult to break.
Like most of my peers, I find a good debate or even an occasional argument among friends to be enjoyable. However, if left unchecked, the habit can get out of control and become a negative trait that destroys relationships. None of us enjoy spending much time with those who question, dispute, and argue about any subject that arises.
An American Indian friend of mine shared wit me a very effective ways to stop the habit of arguing. It involves the use of Decision Sticks. I have used them on more than one occasion – with very good results. The Legend of the Decision Sticks goes like this:
Once upon a time, there were two young Indian boys who disagreed about almost everything and spent many hours arguing and trying to prove who was right and who was wrong. Their constant arguing over trivial matters worried the Chief; he felt that he had to put an end to this behavior before it led to more serious trouble between the boys.
After much thought, the Chief came up with a plan. The next day, the Chief called the arguing boys before him. He stood with a stick in each hand. “These are Decision Sticks.” he intoned. “From now on I will use Decision Sticks to tell me who is right and who is wrong.”
He gave each boy a stick; instructed each boy to take his stick and go one mile in opposite directions, bury their stick, but not mark the burial site. He forbade them to visit their stick’s burial place or to discuss their disagreement for one month. “At the end of a month, you will each dig up your stick and bring it to me. I will reveal the results to you.”
By the time a month had passed, the boys had forgotten that they disagreed, forgotten what they were arguing about, and couldn’t find the burial site of their sticks. After this incident, the boys seldom argued and the Chief was never called on to make a ruling as to who was right or who was wrong.
I believe that we could all benefit from the use of Decision Sticks; I have found them very useful in separating the important matters from trivial ones. The act of handing the person with whom I am arguing a stick and telling them the legend usually stops the argument and brings a smile.
Peers who are willing to suspend arguing for a month seldom find the argument worth pursuing when the month is over and those who do so - I avoid.