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Arthur C. Brooks (Ph.D.) joins the podcast to talk about our culture of contempt and how it is contributing to the polarization in America today. What is contempt? How is it different from anger? And how does contempt affect us and our relationships? Do the social sciences and the Bible provide insight on the pitfalls of contempt and how to steer clear from danger? Tim and Arthur discuss these questions and more today on the podcast. They also unpack the importance of choosing to love one another as a vital corrective to the culture of contempt and provide ways we can begin to put these ideas into practice.


Arthur Brooks: And the truth of the matter is that to love is not about your feelings. This is really important to keep in mind, because some people listening to us are like, "Yeah, but I don't feel it." Well, so what. Fake it. St. Thomas Aquinas said in 1265, the Summa Theologica to love is to will the good of the other. And if you're taking your Christian faith seriously, you can do that. You ask the Lord to give you the strength to will somebody else's good, notwithstanding your feelings. That's what love is really, really all about. And that's what we're called to do.

Tim Muehlhoff: Welcome to the Winsome Conviction podcast. My name is Tim Muehlhoff. I'm a professor of communication here at Biola University in La Mirada, California. I'm also the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project, a project that seeks to reintroduce compassion, civility, empathy, perspective taking, into some of our most difficult public disagreements.

Tim Muehlhoff: Last year, we had a guest come to Biola University that just resonated with the heartbeat of what we're trying to accomplish here at the Winsome Conviction Project. He most likely is not a stranger to many of our listeners, but let me just introduce him very quickly. Arthur C. Brooks is an American social scientist, musician, and columnist for the Atlantic. He was president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, for a decade. As of July, 2019, he joined the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. He's also the author of Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt. So Arthur, welcome.

Arthur Brooks: Well, great to be with you. I'm delighted to be with my friends back at Biola. I wish I were there in person. It's nice out there this time of year, I know.

Tim Muehlhoff: It is. It's nice. We're not part of the massive heat wave that's kind of enveloping this country.

Tim Muehlhoff: When you came to Biola, the faculty were talking about it nonstop, and you really created a buzz on campus of just incredibly important things that we need to think about. So I wrote down your introduction, and then I thought we could just weigh in on it. This is what I wrote, so I just want to be fair to you that this is me trying to write as fast as I could.

Tim Muehlhoff: You said, "America is being torn apart. Our problem is not that we disagree too much, nor is it incivility or intolerance. The heart of the problem is contempt." So I was wondering if you could just very quickly define contempt and then maybe just talk a little bit about, how does that differ from anger?

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, sure. Contempt is a very complex human emotion. It really has to do with the conviction of the worthlessness of somebody else. And it mixes two basic negative emotions that we experience in the limbic system of our brains, a very ancient part of our brains that produces basic emotions. And the two that are mixed together are anger and disgust.

Arthur Brooks: So anger is pretty obvious. It starts from the amygdala of the brain. And disgust is a reaction to something that might be a pathogen. When you mix them together, you get contempt: something is worthless, should be utterly avoided. And one of the things that we find is that when we treat other human beings with contempt, as if they were a pathogen to us, and so both anger and disgust, that you make a permanent enemy. People have a lot of different ways to ascertain that you think that they are worthless. And that's really what we're doing in this country.

Arthur Brooks: Now this is the basis of a lot of human problems. There's nothing new about this. There's a ton of literature on, for example, how to have a marriage that lasts, and the most interesting parts of conjugal therapy are not how to be successful, but how to be unsuccessful so you can not do that, basically. I mean, negative examples are actually very powerful for us learning.

Arthur Brooks: And you find that the best predictor of a couple getting divorced is they treat each other with contempt, as if each one is worthless. It's a kind of hatred actually. And usually they don't know that they're doing it. They roll their eyes. They're sarcastic, they're derisive, they're dismissive with each other. And this is what leads to a permanent breakdown and schism between people.

Arthur Brooks: And that's exactly what's going on politically in our country, and in communities where there are ideological differences as well. We treat each other as if we're not just in disagreement, but that we're actually worthless.

Tim Muehlhoff: And I love what you distinguish in your book, contempt from anger, because ancient philosophers would even call anger the moral emotion, that it's not in and of itself bad. And it could be a spring to action for us to do some really, really good things. So what could be some indicators for our listeners that, okay, you're angry about this issue. You have strong emotions, but now it's bleeding into contempt. What would be some of the danger signs that hey, we're heading towards contempt here rather than just passionate disagreement?

Arthur Brooks: Well, when you have any relationship with somebody else and you disagree strongly and you want the person to think differently, you don't like how they think and you want it to change, and you're agitated as a result of that, that's anger. And anger is actually in the literature uncorrelated with divorce. So we find in the social psychology world that, we think that divorce must come because couples are so angry with each other all the time. And that's actually not true.

Arthur Brooks: There are couples that fight like cats and dogs for decade after decade after decade. And they love each other and they're not going to get a divorce. Because anger, it might have a big impact. It might be exhausting, but it doesn't actually lead to a permanent schism in the relationship because it actually doesn't lower the level of love. What does that is when you let the disgust seep in that anger, and that disgust basically says that you are basically a pathogen. You are worthless to me. And that's more of an expression of hatred than it is an expression of love.

Arthur Brooks: Anger can actually be an expression of love, believe it or not. Now, of course you have to direct it appropriately. And anger can take on all sorts of very destructive manifestations, especially when it becomes violent, which is never, never what we want in any relationship, let alone a domestic relationship, obviously. But even when it's not violent at all, when you express disgust, that's when you drive the other person away because you have stopped saying, "I care what you think and I want it to change," and you've started to say, at least implicitly with your actions, "You're not worth caring about. You're not worth changing. I want nothing to do with you."

Tim Muehlhoff: And we both share a faith background. And boy that is just antithetical to the New Testament message that everybody's made in the image of God, everybody's worthy of God's love. Paul says, "When your enemies are hungry, I want you to go out of your way to feed them, give them something to drink." So the New Testament message is we ought not to have contempt, but rather love even for people that really bitterly disagree with us.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, for sure. I mean, in the Sermon on the Mount of course, or if you're reading the gospel according to Luke, the sermon on a plain, Jesus says to love your enemies. And he says, "You have been taught to hate your enemies, but I'm-" He's going to give us a new teaching at this point.

Arthur Brooks: Now, hatred, how is it expressed? It's expressed in contempt. Contempt is an expression of hatred. And when the Lord says, "I tell you that that's wrong, you have to do something else, to pray for those who persecute you, to love your enemies." You have to do the opposite of that, to fight that particular action. And the reason, well, there's a lot of different reasons to it that are theological reasons to it, and moral reasons to it. But it's incredibly practical. It's the most transgressive teaching in all of human history, which is quite literally the reason that Christianity changed the world completely.

Arthur Brooks: I mean, it's that teaching at the heart of our religion that changed the world. If you want to know one thing that shook everything up, it was Matthew 5:44, love your enemies. And when people have tried to practice that, the world has never been the same, because that is exactly the opposite of the way that the natural order of things worked. And when we turned everything upside down like that, well, we got all kinds of differences in our society, much to the good I should add.

Arthur Brooks: And so this is what we should be looking for. It's interesting because all of my data ... I'm a behavioral social scientist. I teach happiness courses at Harvard, that's what I do for a living. And people say, "What's the secret, the secret to happiness?" You can just boil it down. The answer is the secret to happiness is love, is what it is. And that's of course a Biblical principle, because God is love. And we are made in God's image, meaning that we are ultimately made to love. And therefore we must militate against the opposite of that if we're going to be natural and live according to God's grace.

Tim Muehlhoff: And we're going to get to that in a second, some very practical ways from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. But one thing about your book that I thought people need to hear, is it reminded me of a Lewis Smedes quote, his his popular book on forgiveness, where he said, "Your not forgiving a person is like you taking poison and hoping the other person would die." And you mention very practical effects of us harboring contempt. And could you list some of those for us, of the damage we do to ourselves when we are just harboring this contemptuous attitude towards other people?

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, no for sure. So drinking poison and hoping the other person will die, or as the Buddha one time put it, that hatred is picking up a hot coal to throw at somebody else. And this is a non-trivial metaphor, because what we find is the more contempt that we feel, the more hatred that we feel, the worse it is for ourselves, worse it is for our both physical and mental health.

Arthur Brooks: There's just example after example that you find from the literature, that when people feel more hatred, when they feel more contempt, they have more anxiety, they have more stress, they're more prone to ulcers. They're more prone toward insomnia. It has all kinds of deleterious impacts on their relationships, including the relationships with the people for whom they don't feel contempt. There's just nothing good about it, inviting contempt into your life.

Arthur Brooks: And I guess basically what you're doing is saying, "I'm going to feel better if I say these things, if I allow myself to feel these things." That's an indulgence, is effectively what it is. It's like indulging yourself in anything that's dramatically unhealthy for you. Contempt is a kind of, it's an emotional cancer. It eats away at you. And ultimately you must excise it. You must find some chemotherapy. And the good news is as Christian people, we have the chemotherapy for hatred right in front of us, it's the holy gospel. Because the relationship that we have with the master, I mean, that's how we excise that hatred from our life and replace it with love.

Tim Muehlhoff: Do you find people get defensive? When you say, "Brother, I'm picking up contempt here in how we're talking about the president, or I'm picking up contempt to how you talk about people who really disagree." I have found that people will very quickly say, "No, that's not true. No, I disagree with this person. And I think this person shouldn't be in office, but I'm not doing contempt." Do you find that people just naturally are defensive if it may be suggested that they are acting in ways that foster contempt?

Arthur Brooks: Well, for sure. And it's a healthy defensiveness actually. Defensiveness, generally speaking ... I mean, it's not a very effective reaction. When somebody criticizes you and you behave defensively, that always reflects poorly on you. It's one of the reasons that, as I teach leadership to my graduate students at Harvard, I say never, never be defensive because as soon as you act defensive, everybody recognizes it and they sense weakness. And that's not what you want in being an effective leader.

Arthur Brooks: But it also reflects the fact that you recognize that something isn't right in your own behavior. Defensiveness is something where you're not going to say, "That's right. I have contempt." I mean, sometimes people will do that, by the way. I'll say, "You're expressing contempt." They'll say, "That's right, because they deserve contempt." And then there's another whole line of argument about that. And it's like, so how well is your hatred working for you, man?

Arthur Brooks: I mean, what are you trying to get here? Are you hoping to virtue signal the people on your own side or just to scratch some emotional itch for yourself? Or do you actually want to change things? And if you want to change things, what do you want to change? Well, presumably the way that other people act and think. So how's your hatred working out for that?

Arthur Brooks: You're basically, there's an old, even if you win the argument you lose. There's that old argument that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Nobody in history has ever been insulted into agreement. And that's all that contempt can do is to scratch your itch a little bit or make the virtue signals go out to the warriors on your own side to show that you're enough of a true believer or whatever, weak, ridiculous tribal thing that is. But if you really want to help somebody to the truth, as you see it, man, only love is going to work. Hatred never will.

Tim Muehlhoff: You mentioned the tribalism part. We have really found at the Winsome Conviction Project, this tribalism, or group think, is just derailing conversations left and right. If we actually make headway in a conversation, these people go back to their tribes or their in groups and almost get deprogrammed. Like any gains that have happened, like now they're talking with a little bit of grace towards a person of another political party or ideology. They get deprogrammed in a heartbeat. Like, "No, remember this group is that, this, this, this, this." And they're like, "Oh, you're right. What was I thinking?" So if you go back to your tribe and you want to be a little bit more gracious in how you talk, but the tribe is still talking in contemptuous ways, what might be some ways that you can speak to the tribe?

Arthur Brooks: It's a hard thing to do, particularly for those who haven't been thinking about this very long, who haven't been trained in it. And for those who are pretty insecure in this, it's really hard. And that's one of the reasons that we need to make safer, better tribes. Quite frankly, we need tribes of people that are built to love, not people who are built to hate. It's a very important non-trivial distinction that we need.

Arthur Brooks: And that's why we need these, I guess what you would call in today's vernacular, safe spaces for love as opposed to safe spaces for hate. What's really going on in a lot of college campuses and in the media and in politics, especially in cancel culture, is that people are being fired up to think that real courage is standing up to the other side. And that's complete nonsense. Standing up to the other side is unbelievably easy.

Arthur Brooks: I mean, sure. You'll get criticism on the internet, but you're going to get criticism from people you think are all wrong anyway. Real, real courage is actually standing up to your own side on behalf of people on the other side. That's a really tricky thing to do. And the only way that people can learn to do that is if they're actually in a community where that is encouraged, where that's rewarded, where you get attaboys for doing that. And there aren't very many out there. So I don't know, maybe the Winsome Conviction Project is the safe space for people to love their enemies.

Tim Muehlhoff: Boy, cultivating those safe spaces where you're encouraged to enact New Testament values. That should not be that radical of an idea that we shouldn't be able to pull off. I was really impressed with your relationship with the Dalai Lama. One, can I just ask very quickly how that was fostered? And then I want to ask a question that I know has been presented even to the Dalai Lama about, shouldn't there be some people who deserve our contempt? I mean, these are people that are in a different category and they absolutely should be faced with contempt because of what they've done or what they believe in.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, well, so the Dalai Lama is, if you believe public opinion polls, which I think are pretty legitimate, that he's the world's most respected and beloved religious leader. He is just genuinely and universally held in very high esteem from people around the world. And when you meet him, you understand why. He's that good.

Arthur Brooks: So about 10 years ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to meet His holiness the Dalai Lama, to talk to him about his views on a lot of different matters and ways that we could actually start a communication across cultures that might bring people to higher levels of understanding about lifting people up and bringing them together. My goal in life is to use social science, the science of human happiness, to lift people up. I mean, my apostlehood as a Christian is to do that, but my work as a social scientist is to do that. So I'm always looking for allies in that. How can we have interesting conversations that'll get people's attention that will make them want to live in a better way?

Arthur Brooks: And so I went to his home in Dharmasala, which is in the Himalaya foothills in India near the Tibetan border. He's been in exile there since 1959 when he was kicked out of his home country, Tibet by the Communist Chinese. And he's led the Tibetans in exile there ever since then. And he he's the world's most prominent Buddhist. So people make pilgrimages to see him all the time.

Arthur Brooks: Mine was not for religious reasons. Mine was for conversational reasons about how we could join up forces maybe and see how we could do a little bit more. And it was just a match made in heaven. I mean, we were like a house on fire from the first time we met, and we have so many ideas in common.

Arthur Brooks: And so I invited him to the States. And I've interviewed him in public many times. We've published articles together, and he's actually guest lectured for my classes at Harvard since I retired as a think tank executive and became a college professor again. It's just a wonderful relationship for sure.

Arthur Brooks: And he's often asked, as are many ethical leaders, "You talk about, you preach goodness, and love and reconciliation. And you talk about how bad hatred and contempt are. Well, what about the people who deserve my hatred, who deserve my contempt?" And he has an interesting argument about that, which is what we talked about just a minute ago. And by the way, this was the same argument that Dr. Martin Luther King gave when he was asked about the people who deserved his contempt.

Arthur Brooks: Now, whether they deserve it or not, the question is, what's your goal? What is your goal, satisfaction or effectiveness? What are you trying to do? Are you just trying to express yourself, or kind of an irritation, a tick? Are you involuntary in the way that you're expressing your rage about somebody else? Well, I don't want to be that. And I know for sure I'm not going to be effective if I do that, because nobody's going to say, "Wow, Arthur Brooks is really, really mad at that other guy. Well, that's compelling."

Arthur Brooks: And especially the people I'm mad at are not going to find that very compelling. On the contrary. I mean, again, this is the gospel of Jesus Christ, who said, love your enemies. And that was the most practical teaching, as Martin Luther King said. Only when you love your enemies can you change your enemies. Only when you love your enemies, can you redeem your enemies. That does not mean like your enemies. King said, to like is a sentimental something.

Arthur Brooks: And the truth of the matter is, that to love is not about your feelings. This is really important to keep in mind, because some people listening to us are like, "Yeah, but I don't feel it." Well, so what. Fake it. St. Thomas Aquinas said in 1265 in the Summa Theologica, to love is to will the good of the other. And if you're taking your Christian faith seriously, you can do that. You ask the Lord to give you the strength to will somebody else's good, notwithstanding your feelings. That's what love is really, really all about. And that's what we're called to do.

Tim Muehlhoff: To everybody, across ideological divides, across political divides. We have a rule in our class that of course you can talk about President Biden. Of course you can talk about Secretary Clinton. Of course you can talk about President Trump, but it must always be President Trump. It must always be Secretary Clinton. Because to me, those labels are important. And it's the beginning of contempt that you are like, "Well, Trump is this and Clinton." And it's like, "Hey, let's at least give them the respect that they're owed because of their position."

Tim Muehlhoff: But I love what you're saying about love is the willing of the good of another person. Boy, we just need [inaudible 00:21:11]. So I kind of feel like Arthur, we've gotten to the place within the American church that we just need revival of some kind, for God to dramatically get our hearts, and to return to what Jesus did, having fellowship meals with notorious sinners. And I think we have to return to that kind of sentiment.

Arthur Brooks: I agree with that. And an interesting thing about that is that you look, just reading the gospel and Christ is constantly being rebuked by the Pharisees for dining with tax collectors and prostitutes. And you always look at that and you think, "Wow, man, I don't want to wind up being that Pharisee. I don't want to be so Phariseeical about all that." But the interesting thing about reading the gospels from my point of view, and what I try to do every day. I go to Catholic Mass every day. I'm a Catholic, I go to Mass every morning and we have a gospel reading every morning.

Arthur Brooks: What I try to do is as I contemplate the gospel is to put myself in the story. I think about, where am I in the story? And I was thinking about that the other day, that very passage in the gospel where Christ is dining with the tax collectors and prostitutes and he'd been criticized for it. And I realized that I maybe wasn't the Pharisee. I think maybe I was the tax collector and Christ was dining with me, notwithstanding my sins. And I think that that might be a perspective that we could take as well, that could be helpful.

Tim Muehlhoff: And Paul said, "I'm the chief of sinners. Put me at the top of the list." Now, what I love about when you spoke at Biola is you didn't just leave it here. You gave us practical suggestions, and I must say each one is brutal. I mean, they may be practical, but thank you for messing up my life, Arthur C. Brooks, when you left Biola University.

Tim Muehlhoff: So I'm just going to go through these three very quickly. One, we already covered a little bit, but one of them, and we're huge fans of John Gottman. So you say follow the five to one rule, which is classic Gottman material. So for every one negative comment, you are to say five positive comments about another person.

Arthur Brooks: First.

Tim Muehlhoff: First.

Arthur Brooks: [inaudible 00:23:24] first.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes.

Arthur Brooks: And there's a reason for that ordering. Because there's one thing to say, "Okay, I'm going to get the criticism, the nasty comment. I want to get that out first." No, no, no, no, no, no. That's 6. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 are the nice things. And they have to be genuine. It shouldn't be performa. It shouldn't be fake. It's got to be authentic.

Arthur Brooks: Now, part of the reason that the criticism or the snarky comment or the sarcasm comes sixth is because usually you're not going to get to it. And you're not going to get to it not because you didn't think of it or because you got crowded out with time, but because you stopped remembering that. It didn't occur to you anymore.

Arthur Brooks: That's really super important, that we recognize that we can change ourselves by the way that we express ourselves. And that is under our control. Do you want to be a person who says five happy things for every unhappy thing? Well probably, if you're a Christian, you probably do. Well then do that, set that up.

Arthur Brooks: That's the way that marriages are saved by the way, because there's research that shows that the happiest marriages, they don't go without criticism, but they tend to have five expressions of praise for every criticism. And so you have to wire that in, if you want to have the right kind of communication, and that's the way that we should compare ourselves and communicate with others as well.

Tim Muehlhoff: I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who is in ardent opposition to President Trump. So let me just channel what I think he might say to what he's hearing you say. "But what if I honestly truly cannot think of five positives about President Trump? What if that's the case, I can't think of five positive things to say about president Biden." What do we do if we feel like we're legitimately stuck?

Arthur Brooks: Yeah. Try harder. I mean it's like of course you can, of course you can. I mean, it doesn't matter who ... If you actually, you have to be in Lala land to not be able to come up with five good things about President Biden or President Trump and the relationship that they have with their children, the warm feelings they have toward their country. I mean, notwithstanding the differences that you have and the way that those things are expressed, I got it. Right. But come on. I mean the idea that you can't come up with five things to say about President Trump or President Biden, that just means you've been drinking your cable Kool-Aid a little bit.

Tim Muehlhoff: So Arthur, I did this one thing where my wife, I was preaching in church and my wife later said to me, "Please give me a heads up when you're going to do this. Just like, let me know that's what you're going to say from behind the pulpit." Because I said that Aristotle says to foster good will, and I said, "I'll be honest with you, I don't have much good will towards President Trump nor Secretary Clinton. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to take half my sermon and foster good will towards President Trump and good will towards Secretary Clinton." And I did that from behind the pulpit. Arthur, it was for sure going to offend a bunch of people. And I got my first death threat when I did that- [inaudible 00:26:32]

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, wow. Well done, well done.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah, well done. What did Winston Churchill say? "There's nothing as exhilarating as being shot at and missed." But that's how strongly people feel, is how dare you behind that pulpit talk about positives about that person or this person. That's what I loved when you said that real courage is loving the person that's outside of your community.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah. And standing up to that person inside your community. That's really critical. And that's a great way to lose friends. And I understand why people don't do it. I mean, there's a lot of neuroscience, very good neuroscience research that shows that the part of the brain that is activated when we think about social exclusion is literally the same part of the brain when we are experiencing physical pain. It's called the anterior singulate cortex, and it's lit up like a Christmas tree when you cut yourself.

Arthur Brooks: And when you contemplate being canceled on social media, it's the same thing. We have very thrifty brains. God gave us very parsimonious brains. And that's the reason that people are almost unable to stand up, even when they think something is right, or to not allow themselves to question, are the people who are saying hateful things in my community, is that the right thing?

Arthur Brooks: And the truth is it's probably not the right thing if you're like, "Yeah, he's an idiot. Yeah. He's a jerk. Yeah. He's terrible." Come on, man. I mean, that's not a Christian way to talk. That's not a Christian way to think or act. And furthermore, it's an opportunity for us to stand up to the contempt of the world, which by the way, is also an opportunity to stand up to our own little brains and to raise ourselves up to a higher level, higher, more transcendental level that goes beyond our basic biology, which we're called to do as Christians.

Tim Muehlhoff: And did you say, I may butcher this, but I remember you saying in a different talk that I was listening to that love gives us the same chemical reaction as heroin.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, well, yeah. It more or less, I mean what we find is that heroin actually, it mimics the same biological process as the hormone that functions in a neuropeptide called oxytocin. So oxytocin is a bonding neurochemical and there are receptors for it. And you find that certain kinds of chemicals, opiates, for example, that they look an awful lot like that particular molecule and they go into the receptors. And so people say, "Ah, it weirdly feels like love." And so you talk to people who've been addicted to heroin and say, "What does heroin feel like?" And they say, it feels like love. Well, that's the reason they say that because neurochemically there are real similarities between opiates and the feeling of being in love.

Tim Muehlhoff: So could this be an application from what you're saying? Tell me what you think about this. So I can either sacrifice some of my Christian principles because my in group, I so want their affirmation, their acceptance, or I can have the courage to speak out against my in group or even lead my in group. But then the love of the Holy Spirit that I'll experience, it is more satisfying than the appreciation I got from my in group.

Arthur Brooks: Well, that's the key thing, that when you have a hole in your life, when something has to fill it, when you find that people are incredibly lonely, one of the worst things about loneliness is that people will do highly maladapted things that are self-destructive. And so you find that that opiate use tends to happen to people who are lonely.

Arthur Brooks: You need to fill the loneliness in your soul with something that's nutritious and good, something that's better than the thing that you're missing. And this is the opportunity for us to transcend these, this worldly pain, is by using our worldly pain to become more, to have a better relationship, to be more in communion with the Savior.

Arthur Brooks: So this is the thing. When you're feeling sad, when you're feeling lonely, when you're feeling outcast, when you're feeling rejected. And especially if you're feeling socially isolated, because you have weird views that you think are more in line with your Christian witness than others, say, offer it up, man, offer it up. Leave it in the foot of the cross, because you know perfectly well that our savior will fill that gap, will give you the thing that you seek.

Arthur Brooks: I mean, that's the promise of Christian life. Do what's right. Pay the consequences. Why do you think that every time that the apostle Paul is having a bad time from somebody, that he keeps worshiping and praising and saying thank you over and over again? Because he's offering up that pain. He's offering up that sacrifice, and the Lord is giving him recompense that's so much greater, so much more valuable than that which he's paid.

Tim Muehlhoff: Good word. Well, here's the very last one. I was trying to run out the clock so we actually wouldn't get to this one, because it's too convicting. But here's one last thought you had that honestly, Arthur, I've had to sit on this one and think, I think I need to apply this. You said, ask yourself who are the people I've treated with contempt? And then go apologize.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, yeah [inaudible 00:31:54].

Tim Muehlhoff: Imagine what that would do to our relationships if we took that kind of attitude towards each other.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah. I mean, we're all contempt addicts in this culture. And part of, and when I say that, I say that under advisement. I mean, contempt actually gives you a little burst of dopamine, which is a neuromodulator of anticipation of reward. It's like scratching an itch. It's like smoking a cigarette. I mean, that's what, and a little of expression of contempt, I mean, you can actually see how this works in the human brain when people treat each other with sarcasm and derision with these expressions of contempt. And that can be highly addictive behavior.

Arthur Brooks: Well, treat it like any other addiction. Ask yourself, am I a contempt addict? Well, if I am, well, maybe it's time for your 12-step program. And all the 12-step programs, they all have something in common. Number one you say, "I can't handle this by myself." And then you go on to offering up to a higher being, and all that sort of mildly generic language. You, look, we know what we're talking about. We have these urges that are destructive and they're hard. And that's why we have to turn everything over to the savior. That's what we do as Christian people.

Arthur Brooks: But step nine of every 12-step program, that's make amends. And the truth is you can't ... We ask this in the Our Father every day, that he would forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And part of that means we need to be in communion with each other by asking each other for forgiveness. And when we've done something wrong by indulging our addiction, then we need to offer it up to the Lord and ask for his forgiveness and help. And we need to ask forgiveness to the other person as well. And then, wow, that's when magic happens.

Tim Muehlhoff: And that's what, remember when Jesus said, as you're going to give your offering and you realize that you have sinned against a brother or there's some tension or friction, give a different kind of offering. Don't go and lay it down, but go talk to that person and ask for forgiveness or begin to reconcile or open up lines of conversation. That's a powerful form of worship that we need to enact.

Arthur Brooks: Absolutely. And this is one of the reasons that the Christian faith is the most transgressive philosophy that has ever existed. I mean, even besides the fact that it's the truth and it's eternal life, it's craziness, man. And it brings magic to your life because it is so transgressive. Let's live it more.

Tim Muehlhoff: And we have to be able to do it. One of the lead researchers on deconversion is here at Biola University, and he is saying that Gen Z is deconverting at record numbers because they're so dissatisfied with how the Christian community handles anger, disappointment, disagreements, and they see the contempt. And they're just saying, "I don't see anything distinctive about the Christian community that makes me want to stay."

Arthur Brooks: Yeah. Yeah, totally. I mean, remember, there's nothing that's more repellent than hatred. It might feel satisfying to you, but it's really, really ugly to other people. People are drawn to love. People are, not, people aren't, "Hey boy, I want to join that club because everybody's so hateful and angry." I mean, these are not words that people typically say.

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, Arthur, thank you so much. We know that you have a very busy schedule and you've been so gracious to just afford us a quick podcast. Let me just recommend your book. It's one of our favorites here with the Winsome Conviction Project, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt. So we love the fact that you had a small part in Biola to come and encourage faculty, and our job at the Winsome Conviction Project is to keep that going, try to keep that conversation going. So thank you so much for coming and just joining us for these important thoughts about contempt.

Arthur Brooks: Thank you for having me. It's a delight to be with you. God bless all of you in the Biola community. And thank you for being the way forward, or showing us the light in how to make our society and our country better by loving each other more.

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, thank you so much. If you want to find out more about the Winsome Conviction Project, please just go to our website, We have all of our podcasts. We have articles, opinion, pieces, reviews, and books. All of it's for free. So please check us out and again, Arthur, thank you so much.

Arthur Brooks: Thanks for having me.