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The Joy of Disagreeing

  • Unity

Disagree. That’s a word that might cause some of us a little inner anxiety. If you were trained to view any disagreement as a departure from truth, then even putting yourself into a situation where there may be a disagreement sounds like the last thing you’d want to do.

The words “I disagree” usually precede snarky comments, dismissal of your opinion, and maybe even yelling. It could be that these words are followed by calls for excommunication, or, like in a recent post I saw, one man call for another preacher who lives hundreds of miles from him to be fired because those two men had a different interpretation of a passage in Acts.

So many of us have been conditioned to ignore or even run away from disagreement. I admit, I get a little hint of anxiety when I see a new comment on a video or post.

But here are some reasons why disagreements can be a good thing.

1. Disagreements Naturally Happen When we Study and Grow

The Bible is a big book with lots of moving parts. What may be a “simple” or “obvious” answer to someone may be not so simple to someone else. Person A may have spent hundreds of hours studying the Holy Spirit while Person B may have only heard a few sermons and has spent more time studying Bible prophecy. What may be a simple answer to Person B may be an oversimplified and uniformed take on the role of the Spirit to Person A.

The point is, when we study the Bible, we might focus our attention on different passages, explore different subjects, or even read different resources. All of these factors mean that any two people who take on independent study seriously will naturally reach different conclusions, which leads me to my next point.

2. Disagreements are an OPPORTUNITY to Learn

Differences may be an opportunity for mutual edification. If we can learn to humble ourselves and learn from each other without having to pretend to be an expert on everything, then we can approach differences with curiosity and excitement.

The problem is that some people are taught (explicitly or implicitly) that they need to be an expert on everything. This means that someone who disagrees with them must be dishonest, willfully ignorant, or even a false teacher.

But if we can learn to come to grips with the fact that we don’t know it all and can’t know it all, then perhaps disagreeing could be viewed as an “aha!” moment. “Wow! My friend has a different opinion. I love her and respect her, so let’s see what she has to say!”

Some of my favorite conversations have been with people I didn’t see eye to eye with.

3. voicing Disagreements is a Sign of a Healthy Relationship

Whether it is a church, family, business, or relationship, feeling comfortable enough to voice disagreements is a sign of a healthy relationship. It means that people feel safe around each other, trust each other, and care enough about each other to say, “Hey, I don’t know if I see it that way.”

Uniformity is an illusion. Humans are much too complicated to expect 100% agreement in every matter, and if an environment does seem to have that, then I would suspect that someone isn’t being totally honest with themselves or people aren’t allowed to think for themselves.

Disagreements mean that people are growing.

A possible sign of an unhealthy family, business, church, or relationship would be people bottling up their true feelings until they can’t stand it any more and leave without any conversation. People quit their jobs, girlfriends break up with boyfriends, and churches split all because of a failure to communicate.

If you get the sense that someone disagrees with you and they aren’t saying anything, it might not be that they feel unsafe around you or that you must be an unhealthy person to be around. It could be that they have been conditioned to hide what they’re really thinking. If that’s the case, it’s important to model what healthy disagreements look like. This can help heal the other person and enable you to grow closer together. The same goes for bosses, leaders in a church, or some other organization. It may be healthy, but people may not be able to trust that because of their past.

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