Agapé Chicago
{ inviting Chicago to feast on the love of Jesus }

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Disagreeing Well

            One reality in healthy human relationships is disagreement. Why is disagreement healthy? Disagreement reflects that people are truly alive and genuine, and it can be instrumental in understanding perspectives different than our own.

            This is especially true in church, the body of Christ, individuals woven together as a family by Jesus’ blood. The Church is a massive group of interconnected relationships in Christ. In healthy relationships, disagreements occur—and this is especially true with Jesus’ family.

            One quick acknowledgement: I have been accused at times (often?) of enjoying a good argument too much. Because of this, I need wisdom all the more in how to disagree with others in a healthy fashion. I benefitted greatly from Blaise Pascal’s insight into how to disagree with others. Pascal says this: “When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must take notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken.

If you could read Pascal’s complete writings on this (which I recommend), you will realize he is not advocating for some sort of conversational manipulation or peace for the sake of peace while you secretly (openly?) still think the other person is stupid.

 

            Pascal is helping us see that often people see truth that we don’t see. We need to start disagreements with this recognition. When we begin there, we are genuinely being gracious with others. This is precisely because we start with the belief that someone can teach us something true or about ourselves that we don’t see.

            Taking such an approach is a form of love. When we start with the assumption that people have something to say--in other words, when we respect them--this is a dignifying manifestation of love. At the same time we are acknowledging that God has made that person in His image, and has given them insight as well. Such an approach honors God and neighbor well.

            Lastly, this is just very practical. I know that my opinions and thoughts matter to me, even when they are incomplete. I also know that I genuinely appreciate it when others take my opinions and thoughts seriously. Why would I rob someone of what I desire for myself? Taking someone’s opinions seriously is doing unto others what I would have done for me.

            Since Christ has woven His people, the church, together in Him through His Spirit, we should take seriously the task of deeply understanding others in our disagreements. This necessitates listening, patience, humility, and similar practices. Instead of focusing on pointing out every logical problem, factual discrepancy, or false dichotomy, we should start by learning first to find out what is true in someone else’s thinking. Then we will be able to disagree in a way that will more likely be received by others.