“I Disagree with You” does not mean “I Hate you”

To respond to a matter before you hear about it shows foolishness and brings shame.             Proverbs 18:13

Everybody has an opinion. That has always been true, because we were created to be curious and to be always learning. What an amazing thing our brains are! Capable of sentient thought, able to solve complex problems, the store of countless memories, the place where judgments are made, speech and hearing is generated- just the tip of the iceberg so to speak about what makes us human.

Now about those opinions. Indeed, we all have opinions- lots of them. Many of them are informed by years of study, some just spurred by the perception of the moment. We tend to quickly label some things, informed by our experiences and our biases.

We also have this innate need to express those opinions. We want to be heard. The harder part is to listen to those opinions of others, especially the ones with which we disagree.

These days, there is a LOT of that. And, since this is July and November is coming with an election, the next few months will be full of ideas, media blitzes, and an air filled with opinions, many of which we will not like.

Something which I find very refreshing is a disagreement where two parties can share their differences, strongly, firmly, well thought out, and still treat one another with respect. That is, the ability to hear one another’s points, consider them, and then respond reasonably and intelligently. Maybe that’s why I like books and movies about trials where quick-witted attorneys contend over points of the law in defense of, or the prosecution of, a defendant.

I believe that really good attorneys work hard to be able to argue the position of their opponent. That way, they can get into the thinking of their opponent, and see his/her world view better. At the end of the trial, sometimes a contentious one, those attorneys can often go out and have dinner together and be friends. They can disagree without being disagreeable.

One of the tools I give to couples whom I see in counseling is the Fair Fighting Rules. In those rules are a few that can serve us well as we encounter ideas which run counter to our own. So, below are a few ideas about “Fair Fighting”. I hope it helps to make some disagreements learning experiences, not grounds for bitterness.

  • Allow the possibility of being wrong, or that you may not be seeing the whole picture
  • Become aware of your current feeling level (getting angry, frustrated, etc.) and own it- do not blame it on the other person. Your emotional response may be coming from something that is not currently part of the discussion but from possible past experiences, etc.
  • Try to put yourself in the shoes of the other person and understand how they are seeing it. That does not mean that they are “right”, or even that you need to agree with it; just be willing to try to see the world the way that they see it. 


Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of expression. Give us the wisdom and discipline to exercise it well, Amen.


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