These days, we don’t have to go far to find someone who will disagree with us. Our communities, country, and sadly, sometimes families and friendships have become hotbeds for conflict.
One of the beautiful things about living in America is that we have the freedom of speech. Although we are seeing a stifling of our right to speak, but that’s a topic for another time.
Because of our freedom of speech, we are able to give our opinions, comment on posts, blogs, parlays, and tweets, and share our thoughts in person. Religious rights, the death penalty, gun control, abortions, mask usage, illegal immigration, how to handle COVID, and school choice are just some of the topics we can find ourselves at odds at with others.
Unfortunately, sometimes those debates can turn into something much less than peaceful discourse.
Case in point: I recently stumbled upon a social media group where bullying was rampant. A woman was saying that because she has asthma, she is unable to wear a mask.
One after the other, hateful comments appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. It became not a peaceful back-and-forth discussion about who does and who doesn’t support wearing masks. Rather, it became one of horrific attack methods and hatefulness directed at a woman who couldn’t wear a mask because of health issues.
Masks are probably one of the most contentious topics in recent days. I have my own opinions about them – albeit strong ones – but no matter how strongly we disagree with someone, it never does any good to be disrespectful, vicious, or spiteful.
So how do we ensure our disagreements are respectful?
Realize that family and friendships are not worth winning an argument. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.
Remember we can’t take words back once we say them. Oh, but that we could all take a magic vitamin that would put a guard over our mouth! Keeping in mind that once a word is uttered, the hearer can’t unhear it, can go a long way in thinking before speaking.
Try to respond calmly. This doesn’t come naturally to most of us, especially when it’s a contentious subject. Praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and praying for the Lord’s control over your words throughout the interaction is critical.
Remember that healthy disagreements are actually good. Constructive arguments can bring to light what needs to be said. My husband, a manager, once noticed severe tension between two of his workers. He could have written them up, and/or forced them to go their separate ways, leaving the topic unsettled. Instead, he called them into the small break room and told them to discuss the matter and that they weren’t leaving until it was resolved. Was it a bit loud and unruly at times? Yes, but within a few minutes, the two men were sitting at the table calmly discussing it. When my husband returned a half hour later, they were making plans on where to go out for lunch.
Men are a unique species that way, or at least in the past they were. They would have an argument, duke it out, and remain friends afterwards. I am saddened to say that with women, it’s the opposite. We women have long memories and if someone did something to us in 1853, we still remember it and hold a grudge. This should definitely not be the case.
Don’t attack the other person. James 3:5 reminds us of what a danger our tongue can be.
Know your facts before launching into an argument. You might not win the other’s person’s agreement, but you might win their respect.
Try not to take it personally. Easier said than done. Sometimes people already having a bad day need only one more irritant to lash out and you inadvertently happen to be that irritant. Not an excuse for their poor behavior, but a good reminder that we have been shown much grace and should extend that same grace to others.
Listen twice as much as you speak. Someone once said that we have two ears and one mouth because we need to listen more than we speak. James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Sometimes when someone is disagreeing with us, especially verbally, it can be tempting to interrupt and cut in with our own opinions before the other person is finished with theirs. Instead, listen – really listen – even if you don’t agree with what they are saying. This is one of the surest forms of respect.
Don’t let trivial matters divide you. At the end of the day, it’s just not worth it.
Don’t belittle or diminish the other person’s opinions. While we may be diametrically opposed to anything they may say about a topic (and sometimes with good reason), putting someone down never wins the discussion.
Remember that God made us all different. It would be pretty boring if we all agreed on everything. We should welcome respectful conversation about the difficult topics, not ban it or shame those who don’t agree with us.
Think about eternity. Remembering that if you both are Christians you will be spending eternity together can put things into perspective.
I’m not too old to remember when we could disagree respectfully and peacefully and remain friends. While it seems that may never be the case again, we can make huge strides by responding in a Christlike manner.
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