Archives for posts with tag: disagreement

 

Often I am confronted with difficult issues and people are expressing drastically different opinions. Sometimes I agree with one perspective and disagree with others. What should I do? What do you do?

Do you just concede, give in? Does it seem like too much trouble and not worth it to fight/argue? No matter how much the issue is discussed or debated, nothing is going to change. No one will gain new understanding. Don’t fight it.

Another possible response is to determine that you are going to prove your position is the right one. Win this argument. Conquer! After all, in everything there are winners and losers and you are not going to be defeated. Your opinion will prevail.

Do you listen to all perspectives to see if there are some points that make sense, even if others do not. Are you willing to make an effort to understand where the other persons are coming from and learn from them. Compromise is an acceptable option.

Is it wise to simply accept or at least fail to object to anything that people throw at you? It has been said that silence speaks consent so is your reluctance to pose questions or objections a good alternative?

If you refuse to give in and are insist on winning, what is the collateral damage? Is it necessary to have victors and vanquished on every matter?

Is compromise is an alternative to conceding and conquering? Is it possible that no one has all of the right answers? Can anyone see all sides of an issue at one time? Can you moderate your views and opinions and still maintain personal integrity? Is it possible to have a win-win conclusion?

I believe there are absolutes. Issues on which there is no debate. Practices and perspectives that are essential to orderly and ethical living. But I believe most of what we argue about and are divided over are secondary issues for which there is more than one “right” answer. Even when we cannot agree, it seems the right thing to do is at least be civil and respectful of the other person.

If you know anything about the Bible you probably are aware that the leaders of the church in Corinth were not always of one mind. The Apostle Paul counseled them to “be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11 CEB). He did not instruct them to be in agreement on everything but to value one another enough to work to “harmonize” their attitudes and actions. They did not have to all sing the same note but to blend their various voices.

We can make beautiful music together but that means each of us sings our note. God help us!

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

I have often said that if two people always agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. That is not to suggest that any person is expendable but simply a way to express the fact that all people do not or should not think alike. No one has all the right answers.

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It is not a bad thing for people to hold different opinions. In fact, differing perspectives are healthy and helpful. Unfortunately that is not always understood and appreciated. Persons with different opinions are often ridiculed and disrespected. Expressions of disagreement are sometimes unkind and damaging.

In our current environment, civil and respectful discourse are often lacking when significant issues are the topics. Hurtful and disparaging words are frequently heard in public discourse. It seems that we are yelling at each other more than talking with one another.

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John Wesley suggested a better way than argument and debate to approach issues on which we differ. He believed if people would confer with one another they would make better choices and come to reasonable conclusions. Thus he admonished the early Methodists to engage in Christian Conferencing. Wesley expected Christian conference to shape people’s lives.

Christian conferencing is sometimes called “holy conferencing.” Steve Manskar says, “The phrase is typically employed ‘to encourage people to have polite conversation with each other, particularly around issues where people are going to disagree’.”

United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said that “holy conferencing is not limited to a specific topic or a specific venue for decision-making. It is also not a strategy to shut down conversation or stifle impassioned speech. It is a means for staying connected to each other in spite of our differences.” In a study guide she wrote to assist churches and groups she offered eight principles for constructive dialogue. I share them with you as a better way of dealing with difficult issues as well as daily affairs.

  1. Every person is a child of God. Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded that to love God is to love our neighbor. “If anyone boasts ‘I love God’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both” (1 John 4:20-21, The Message).

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  1. Listen before speaking. This means that you suspend judgment about the other. Welcome with open arms others who don’t see things the way you do. Do not focus on convincing others that you are right. Instead, listen to others so that you can understand better why they hold their opinions.
  1. Strive to understand from another’s point of view. Bishop James S. Thomas said that the truth was clear to him when he was thinking his own thoughts by himself. It was when he was in the presence of others that it all got confused! In other words, he had to confer with others to see more sides or angles or perspectives on whatever the matter was at hand.
  1. Strive to reflect accurately the views of others. To strive to express accurately others’ views is a matter of honesty, not to mention integrity. If we skew, or cast the worst light on another’s viewpoint, and give it a spin that is not accurate, then we are being dishonest.
  1. Disagree without being disagreeable. “Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.”  (Eph. 4:29 CEB)

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  1. Speak about issues; do not defame people. Calling people names defames them and is inflammatory. The simple moral fact is that words kill. Words that defame kill both the spirit and the reputation of others.
  1. Pray, in silence or aloud, before decisions. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Praying for those who disagree with us is hard to do because it challenges our prejudices, anger, and malice.
  1. Let prayer interrupt your busy-ness. Praying in the midst of our disagreement might actually bring out the best in us and for the common good! It’s always appropriate to call for prayer and also to be in an attitude of prayer in the midst of discussion about weighty, divisive, and important conversations.

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Bishop Dyck concludes her study guide by saying, “In order to confer with others who disagree with us, we need to practice our faith in ways that challenge us spiritually as well as relationally. To love God and our neighbor requires nothing less.“

Jamie Jenkins