How to Disagree Well
Unpopular Opinion: disagreeing well with someone can transform our hearts.
It may seem foreign, especially in today’s world, that disagreeing well with someone could actually benefit us and bring honor to God.
How do we do that? Great question…I’m still learning myself. However, if I take a look at what the Bible says about disagreeing, it brings a different perspective.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Pray first. Praying sets our hearts and our minds to a posture that is more “inviting” vs. “attack mode”. Praying also sets the space and invites God in, to not only keep us humble, but to also bring knowledge and wisdom to the conversation. When our desire is to honor God in our conversation, the tone and posture of our hearts has to transform. Romans 14:8 says, “If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord.” So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. By honoring Him with our prayers, we also honor ourselves and the person we disagree with.
2. Ask questions and listen first. We create a safe space when asking questions and actively listen first. We are letting them know that while we may be in a disagreement, we value them as someone whom God loves. In James 1:9 it says “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving].” By following this, our perspective again changes as we learn the “why” behind their opinions and we bring unity in Christ creating heart transformation for us and for them. As a bonus, when we learn about why someone feels the way they do, we can at the very least empathize with their experience.
3. Avoid public platforms. While social media can be a space to voice your opinions, bring awareness to injustice and to find those with whom you have common interests, ask yourself some questions first before engaging in a disagreement in that area. “Will my opinion create understanding or justify my need to be right?” or “Can I honor God with my words in the moment?” When the context of disagreement is social media, there is an anonymity that doesn’t check with our hearts or minds before we post. When we meet with someone individually, there is suddenly a face, a life and a why behind the disagreement that steers towards humanity.
4. Honor/Bless those whom you disagree with. This is a counter-cultural response to a disagreement that displays valuing people over being right.
Disagreeing well is not a perfect science. However, there is one who did it perfectly. Jesus. He exemplified disagreeing well. Jesus saw people first, and invited them into life change. An example of this would be the woman at the well found in John 4:4-30. To summarize, Jesus is at a well when a Samaritan woman approaches. Because Jesus is who He is, He knows all about this woman…her entire life. After a conversation, it is revealed that this woman has had 5 husbands and is currently living with a man to whom she is not married. Instead of shaming or judging her, Jesus listens to her and gives her the living truth of who He is and who He has come to save. He doesn’t yell at her about the law or how she lives her life. Jesus honors her and it is through His kindness and forgiveness that she listens and sees the truth. Another context to this is that this woman is a Samaritan. In biblical days, Jews would never be seen with Samaritans as they were considered second class citizens. However, Jesus sees her first, as a child of God, listens and honors her. Extremely counter cultural then as well as today.
If our main objective with disagreements is to change minds, we have a long way to go, but honoring God and those around us means learning to disagree well. And when we do it, heart transformation and authentic unity in Christ follows, which benefits all of those involved.
Central Ministries Coordinator