~ Are we bold enough to solve big social problems by working on small differences? ~
“We don’t see things eye to eye,” said my friend. “We’ll never agree. This conversation is over.”
Then he walked away.
This is the “normal” outcome of many conversations about controversial topics today. The parties peacefully part ways. And yes, this is an “okay” resolution. It’s better than fighting. It’s the best outcome we can expect with people who are not in our inner circle. But with close friends and family, it is a sell-out. It is a convenient compromise. It says we would rather be deceived than learn hard truths.
Is it okay to temporarily shut down a discussion about contentious issues between close friends and family?
Absolutely! It might even take months to circle around to the topic again. But to permanently mark the topic “off limits” is unproductive.
What’s so bad about “agreeing to disagree” with close friends and family?
To take that approach might mean:
1) You refuse to help them discover truth (which may take months or even years).
2) You refuse to admit that you might be wrong.
3) You resist their attempts to strengthen you by exposing flaws in your thinking.
4) You turn your back on the biblical mandate for unity.
5) You value your subjective opinions above truth.
6) You forget that all people will come to the same truth, whether in this life or the next.
7) You contribute to the threat of potentially lethal social conflict by shutting down dialog with your friends and family.
Many people today believe social conflict is imminent. People of good faith are well-positioned to influence the world for good. By example, we can show them how to resolve differences in love. History warns of wars and atrocities that destroy friends and family who think differently about significant issues. Might these wars have been avoided if Christians had been “salt and light,” respectfully trying to work out their differences?
This, of course, takes time. It also takes a spirit of childlikeness and humility.
If you have had a shutdown moment with a close family member or associate who agrees to disagree, let a few days go by. At the appropriate time, reach out with the specific goal of understanding their position better. Reject the temptation to push your agenda louder and stronger. Take the opposite approach and ask thoughtful questions. Be a good listener. Tell them you want to learn more about why they believe what they believe. You could even begin by admitting that you might be deceived, if only in part, and that you’d like the other person to help you understand. As the dialog continues over time, keep conversations short, focusing on one point or perspective at a time. Be respectful, especially when you disagree. Have a long-term perspective.
Perhaps the most important principle is to pursue truth. Pledge to each other that truth is more important than people or politics or pundits. Agree that truth will prevail in the end, bringing all people together. Confess that God hates lies and so do you.
If their opinions matter more to them than truth, then the conversation is indeed over — at least for now. Respect their wishes. Hopefully they will come to value truth, which brings consensus. But you have to analyze all sides of the issues to find it.
Most political and theological positions are not as black and white as we’d like them to be. Thousands of Christians killed each other in European wars of religion, where Catholics and Protestants elevated politics and religion above Jesus’ highest command to love. This was one tragic conclusion to “agreeing to disagree.”
Is this our end too?
Are we childlike and humble enough to admit that we might be wrong?
Do we love close friends and family enough to not shut down conversations?
Do we value truth more than politics or religion?
Here’s one final point about seeking truth: Don’t shut out entire classes of people or sources of information when seeking to understand. If your news source makes libelous accusations about people, are you giving the accused a fair hearing? If your source makes libelous claims about other news sources, have you invested generous time and effort to test the other sources for yourself? Check out all claims for yourself because God abhors lying witnesses. If you were in a court of law, would you shut your ears to half of the witnesses? You’ll never discover truth if your “itching ears” only listen to the propaganda that your side allows.
Keep the conversation going.
Value truth more than opinions.
Don’t settle for deception.
Be childlike and humble.
Value the redemptive process of dialog more than the need to come to a conclusion.
Allow the meandering journey toward truth to take time.
Allow the journey to unify, not divide.
Rejoice that in the end, you and your friends and family will all be proclaiming the same truth together.
For a creative perspective on Truth, see my article: The Truth Fairy
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard
“… the truth will set you free.” — John 8:32
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. — Proverbs 12:19
Finally, brothers, whatever is true … think about these things. — Philippians 4:8
Having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. — Ephesians 4:25
Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. — Proverbs 12:17
“[Satan] is a liar and the father of lies.” — John 8:44
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. — Exodus 20:16
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue … — Proverbs 6:16
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord … — Proverbs 12:22
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. — Proverbs 19:9
Image by Tumisu at Pixabay.com.
 Soren Kierkegaard Quotes, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/6172.S_ren_Kierkegaard.