How Playing Devil’s Advocate Taught My Children to Think for Themselves

The more I interact with others in the world, the more I realize that people can’t think for themselves. The ability to think logically and come up with individual opinions is practically non-existent. The average person is pulled along by the nose-ring by the media, political parties, or just the wave of public opinion. It saddens me greatly. I wanted my children to rise above and use the brains God gave them. I think I mostly succeeded mainly by playing Devil’s Advocate.

As early as grade school, I’d push my children to think. They’d be writing a paper and ask me to look over it to see if there were glaring mistakes. I took that opportunity each time to take the opposite stance and ask questions. At first, they were always defensive but then they began to think and challenge me. After all, they want to prove Mom wrong. The end result was them discovering new points to put in their paper and make it better. On top of that, they understood their own stance better.

All of my children are young adults now. They have told me over and over how playing Devil’s Advocate really helped them. They even ask me to do it at times so they can see deeper into a subject they have to explore in school or work. There is less of that in our educational system or in society than there should be. We should be challenged but not to change our minds. The challenge should have a goal of making us understand the topics better and even understand ourselves at a deeper level.

I have played this role in political discussions, religions discussions, and even just on relationship topics. We get too caught up in our lives and can only see through our personal lens. When we step back and view the situation through the lens of others, our entire perspective can change. Our opinions might remain steadfast, but we can understand the other side better and even the stance we take.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been in conversation with someone who couldn’t answer intelligently why they feel the way they do on a particular topic.

Why are you against the death penalty?

Uh, my parents are for it so I’m against it.

What? That’s not an intelligent response. That proves that the person isn’t thinking on their own. That’s how the masses followed Hitler and the lynch mobs of yesteryear. Brain activity was at a minimum. Why do you believe in this? Why do you not believe in that?

A recent conversation with someone showed how beneficial this can be. Before I tell you about it, I want you to not get hung up on the topic which is still a very heated one in today’s society. I want you to think of the process and the end result. So, this woman said that she was very angry at then President Trump just shrugged off his comments that were derogatory towards women. She kept saying, “He didn’t even apologize once he knew how angry everyone was about what he said.” So I asked, would you forgive him or think differently of him if he did.” That stopped her cold. She wasn’t sure. She knew what she wanted and could mostly explain why, but she had no idea if getting it would satisfy her. Later, she told me that she would think better of him if he did, but that she really had no idea until I played Devil’s Advocate and pushed back. She would still not like him, but she’d have a tiny bit more respect and hope for him. The end result? She learned more about her own feelings. She grew as a person.

Try to argue or question from the other side of the issue. Get into deep but not heated discussions with others with some Devil’s Advocate games. Keep in mind that most people can’t think for themselves and can’t participate. Move on to those who can and watch each of you grow. I grow everyday as do my children. I love to watch my kids argue a point so well that they leave others speechless. They know what they believe and why. Do you?