Let’s talk about having disagreements for a second. Disagreements about topics that make you so angry you feel like your passion could start a fire, or give you a heart attack. The ones that break your heart, that keep you up at night. Issues that have personally touched people you know, maybe the ones closest to you. The ones you lose friendships over, have broken ties, and burned bridges over.
Estimated reading time: 5.5 minutes.
Everything I say in this blog post is going to be based on this assumption: If you’re reading this, then you truly care about these issues and want other people to care as well. You want the best for those you disagree with in the following way: You want them to see your side because you believe it’s the truth. If you don’t care about convincing others of the truth, well, you should. But I won’t touch on that right now.
We all have certain topics that make our blood boil. In this post, I want to consider what our response should be to these. Let’s take a minute and step outside of any specific disagreement to look at disagreements in general. Let’s look at a few different options.
Do I…stay angry, characterizing the other side as lacking intelligence, having malintent, or “othering” them? Do I group them all into one category of people I don’t want to interact with, and mock them?
Pros of staying angry:
- It feels good, at least for the moment.
- It feels productive because you’re standing firmly for a position.
- You’ll probably get a lot of validation from other angry people, and you’ll feel united to them.
Cons of staying angry:
- This will probably never convince anyone who disagrees with you to change their mind. Have you ever been convinced by someone who makes a judgment on your character for a belief you have? Or would you be more likely to change your mind if they made you feel safe in exploring a different view?
- Have you ever been wrong before? Do you think there’s a chance you’ll be wrong again? It seems unlikely that an angry disposition will help you find out when you’re wrong.
- Have you ever had an opinion that was incredibly misunderstood, and felt unfairly misjudged by someone as a result? You’re risking doing this to someone else and losing what may even be a good friendship.
Do I…give up on friendships because the people who disagree with me are bringing negativity into my life?
This is an appealing option, I admit. Perhaps it’s bringing you a lot of pain to see their Facebook posts, and you’d have a better life without ever hearing their upsetting opinion again. Perhaps disagreements themselves give you anxiety, and things would be more peaceful without them.
Pros of giving up on these people:
- It feels more peaceful, and you don’t have to worry about having arguments or being upset by their opinions.
- You don’t have to put in the extra work of maintaining a friendship with someone who isn’t as easy to get along with.
- All of your friends will be people who validate you and agree with you.
Cons of giving up on these people:
- Over time, you’ll stop being challenged by other viewpoints and either (1) you’ll lose the ability to defend your views, (2) you’ll be stuck in wrong positions without ever knowing it, or (3) you’ll be unable to understand other people who disagree with you when you do come across them.
- You lose what may be very good friendships. I’m not advocating maintaining psychologically unhealthy friendships, but often people cut off otherwise good friendships just for this reason.
- You limit your own growth. You do not have to lose your convictions to stay friends with these people, but you are cutting off chances to grow in adapting, loving even thy enemies, etc.
Do I…assume it’s hopeless, that they’ll never see the truth, and stay away from talking about it?
- You don’t have to deal with any of this! It’s easier!
- It’s a simpler worldview and you can still stay friends with these people.
- It requires less of what may feel like confrontation, which can be quite painful, and it might not go as well as I want it to.
- You may miss out on opportunities to change the minds of people who are very open to dialogue.
- Your private opinion of them may impact the way you interact with them, hurting your friendship. You may start to misunderstand them, mischaracterize them, or underestimate their ability to have a dialogue.
- You miss out on working harder for a friendship on accepting another person (but not necessarily their views) in their totality.
Do I…try to understand their viewpoint in a way they would find fair, find common ground, and have compassionate dialogue in hopes that they’ll see what I’m saying and we can move together toward what is TRUE?
- You respect the dignity of another person, finding common ground in places you didn’t expect and growing to respect them more than you thought you could.
- You grow in compassion, and more people change their minds because of you. You maybe even change your mind about a few things you never had seen differently before!
- You learn how to have friendships that aren’t conditional on how they make you feel.
- You find that underneath many strong opinions are broken hearts, unfulfilled hopes and desires, fears, and even pure intentions. You avoid unfairly seeing another person as they are and truly hurting someone else.
- You grow in your understanding that people aren’t as black-and-white as they seem, and even grow in compassion for yourself.
- It takes work.
- It’s not natural.
- It requires denial of self and no longer feeling self-righteous. It requires giving up your “gotcha!” moments. It requires patience, it requires allowing your heart to be broken by the people you love and the issues you care about.
- Maybe no one has ever done it for you before, so it seems like a tall order.
- It requires more that you look at how you’re contributing than placing the blame on someone else, and that’s never fun for anyone.
In conclusion, I’ve been a lot of these people. I’ve disagreed with people and reacted badly, I’ve disagreed with people and reacted well, and I’ve had others disagree with me compassionately and alternatively, in anger and a judging attitude. So, let me say that choosing the route of compassion and understanding is undeniably the best way to go.
I once had someone tell me that I wished them dead because we disagreed about an election. I’ve been mischaracterized time and time again, and when it happened at age 15, it absolutely broke my heart. I’m committed to changing the way we disagree with each other, sometimes more than I am committed to certain positions. Do I do disagree with others perfectly? No, but I will never stop trying. Because I love people, because I love truth, and because I believe BOTH are worth it.
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The post Let’s Talk About Disagreeing With Each Other originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”