On Disagreeing Well

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt today is “disagree.”

“How wonderful it is, how pleasant for God’s people to live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1 GNB)

Wonderful and pleasant… but not always easy.

As a musician, I love the word “harmony” that is used in several translations of this verse. Others replace it with “unity” but I think “harmony” sums it up better.

Harmony involves notes clashing and then resolving. Without those clashes, the music would be bland and boring. Taken in isolation, a pair of notes might not seem to go together, but, in the context of the piece, the result is beautiful.

I think this illustrates well how we are to relate to one another as Christians. We will not always agree on everything, but we are still united in Christ, and we need to accept that and learn to disagree well.

It is perfectly possible. I have witnessed this in one of my friendships this year, and, while it has not always been easy, I think it has ultimately enriched our friendship. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

Don’t lose sight of what you have in common. My friend and I disagree on various matters connected to the Christian faith. Freewill vs. predestination, and women in leadership, have been the main topics we’ve discussed, but we have different perspectives on a few other matters too. However, we are in complete agreement about our love for God, our faith in Jesus, and our desire to live in a way that honours him. That is far more important than the areas where our opinions differ.

Talk about it openly with a view to understand each other’s perspectives. These conversations can be hard. At times I felt like my friend was trying to persuade me of her point-of-view, and that she was saying her way was correct. I felt that I was more ready to accept we had different opinions and to move on. However, in the end, the conversations have give us greater understanding of one another. We can see the reasons for the different views even if we don’t agree. Sometimes Christians can be convinced that their view alone is the biblical one, but, honestly, we wouldn’t even be having some of these conversations if the Bible was completely clear and there was only one interpretation on certain things!

Agree to disagree. Once you’ve talked about it and you understand each other’s perspectives, let it go and move on. One of the things I love about my friend is that while we still disagree, I don’t doubt her friendship or support. There was a time when I would hold back from talking about certain things because I didn’t want to get into a debate, but we’ve reached the point where we know each other’s views and have accepted them, and we can talk openly again. Just last week, she told someone that, while she disagreed with me “on paper,” watching my example was challenging her views. It felt like one of the highest compliments she could give.

Respect and understanding count for a lot. And when we manage to reach that place of harmony, it is truly wonderful!

30 thoughts on “On Disagreeing Well

  1. Lesley, I love that you mentioned focusing on what you have in common. Perhaps as we focus on being in “complete agreement about our love for God, our faith in Jesus, and our desire to live in a way that honours him”, some of the other things will seem less divisive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We may see things differently,
    not always in full agreement,
    but I’ll tell you honestly,
    I’m here for you, hundred percent,
    because we’re bound by more than words;
    we’re linked by shared experience,
    and like the bright-hued flocking birds,
    it really is just common sense
    to stick together, you and me,
    not quibble over bagatelles,
    but shelter in the spreading tree
    whose rustling leaves are Heaven’s bells
    upon the fresh and golden air
    that we’re not meant to hoard, but share.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the music illustration, what a beautiful picture! I love that you and your friend can be so caring and open in your conversations, even if you don’t agree. I think the Lord uses that gentle approach, and it can definitely be more effective than trying to beat someone over the head with your own viewpoint.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Callie! Yes, I think it needs both people to agree to respect the differences, but it’s much better than constantly trying to persuade each other.


  4. Harmony takes balancing – listening, knowing where to encourage and where we need to be hands off and hands up! Building bridges changes lives! Good perspective on harmony!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the analogy of harmony. The most beautiful music to me is not when every voice or instrument is on exactly the same notes, but when they are playing different ones and yet blend beautifully. I have friendships like that, too, where we agree on the main things and differ on others.

    This last year has been hard with such strong opinions on masks, vaccines, how COVID should be handled, whether it’s even a threat, etc. I think sometimes the heats of personal opinions has overridden the relationships involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree. Music is much more interesting when the different sounds combine. There have been a lot of strong opinions around with COVID. It’s definitely not been easy at times.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s great that you and your friend can talk about the topics that you disagree on, yet still maintain your friendship. Sometimes that works well for me too. But unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t. 😦 So I learn to just keep quiet on the areas of disagreement with those friends. I don’t know if it’s always the right approach or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. At the Christian college my husband and I attended everyone had to take the course, Philosophy and Christian Thought. One of our textbooks was a thick volume, The Protestant Faith, that highlighted all the theology and doctrines Protestants adhere to. If we could concentrate on those important matters instead of the lesser ones, we’d be a much better picture of harmony for our world.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s a powerful statement, Lesley … that your friend’s views have been challenged by watching your example, even though she disagrees with you “on paper.” I guess that brings new meaning to the phrase, “actions speak louder than words.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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