Agree to Disagree

unhappy

Picking up the Pieces

Whoever you are planning on voting for tomorrow, most of us can sympathize with how this little girl was feeling:

There is light at the end of the tunnel! Tomorrow we vote and hopefully by Wednesday we will know who the next President of the United States will be. (I say hopefully because the polls have the race so close we may be in for a very long tabulating process)

There is a problem that has begun to plague the relational landscape in our country, and it has been brought into sharp contrast by this election: We have forgotten how to agree to disagree. We either don’t engage in conversations that may be harrowing, and so avoid the conflict, or we engage and get so passionate that we destroy whatever relationship was there in the first place.

I have seen far too many adults who allowed disagreements to become permanent wedges that drove people apart, because they couldn’t agree to disagree. A recent Rasmussen poll reported that 27% of people reported that this election cycle had negatively affected a relationship with a friend or family member. It has pitted brother against brother, father against son, Facebook friend against Facebook friend.

How do we learn to have civil discourse, disagree, and still be friends? Here are a few thoughts to help patch those relational wounds that may have been caused in time to have Thanksgiving dinner together without throwing a drumstick at the other person:

1. TRUST THEIR MOTIVES

I mentioned a few weeks ago the fact that campaigns intentionally oversimplify issues to drive wedges between voters. It may work at the polls but it’s lousy in relationships. If you are only getting your information from your political party’s ads, you need to spend some more time thinking.

Concede that the person you have been arguing with is not an unthinking drone, and wants to live a healthy productive life just like you do. No one votes for the person they think will run the country into the ground. Trust their motives as much as you trust your own.

2. ASK FOR FORGIVENESS

You may have said things/posted things/e-mailed things that you realize were in bad taste. Don’t be too big to apologize. The other person may have wronged you too. You can’t control that, and don’t ask for an apology. Focus on how you can mend the relationship, not on what you think they should be doing. Simply asking for forgiveness can go a long way.

3. DON’T LET AWKWARD BUILD A WALL

This is something I learned from my wife. If you have a heated discussion with someone, or even a very intense discussion or awkward discussion, follow it up quickly with an unrelated non-threatening discussion. Don’t allow the awkward to build because soon it will become a silent barrier between you that will slowly separate you relationally. The best way to keep the wall from building is to keep the conversations flowing.

4. APPROACH LIFE AS A LEARNER

It’s great to have conversations about the deep things! To be able to have open and honest conversations about religion and politics and life can be life-giving. If you have friends who have different perspectives than you, learn from them. Approach those conversations not with something you want to communicate but with something you want to learn.

Jesus spent tons of time with people who disagreed with him. He had dinner at Synagogue leader’s houses. He ate with tax collectors. We applaud Jesus for these things but forget the fact that these people held very different philosophical worldviews than he did. He didn’t avoid the difficult discussions, he pressed into them.

Blessings,