I Don’t Like That One Thing You Said Once: Moving Past Disagreements

 

A friend told me he left his church because the pastor finally said something he did not agree with.

I asked him what it was.  Something about feminism.  He couldn’t remember too well.

I asked him, “So that’s it then?” 

He said, “Of course.  I mean now I know who this pastor really is.”

There could’ve been a legitimate reason here, but even if not: I understand, because the second I can drop someone, I usually do.  It’s this sick part of me that can’t stand it when someone else thinks differently than I do.

More than ever, we’re an easily offended culture.  We are vocal paper tigers.  The blogosphere has exposed us as absurdly critical creatures, each of us with an impetuously loud voice that makes up for our real personalities.  The shyest kitten becomes a German shepherd on a blog.  I know this because I’m like this.  We know it shouldn’t be this way: but we are just so bad at disagreeing, it’s nearly an artform.

 

The thing is: I will eventually say something you do not find pleasant.  You will resist it completely.  Forget that it’s right or wrong or worth hearing or not — you will push back, never read here again, and judge the rest of my character based on this point of contention.  “How could I have liked this guy?  How could I have been so blind?” And so on.

Others have done this to you with great aplomb.  If you missed even one tiny angle, they forever swore off your opinions, your writing, and your values.  You’ve been accused of deeply entrenched character flaws.  If you’re not 100% for a side, you must be 100% against it.

I really want to believe we are a more thoughtful generation that knows how to slow down and remember that bloggers are also human beings.  Your pastors and leaders do not merely live in subterranean lairs trying to find ways to frustrate you.  They also go grocery shopping, use the bathroom, raise children, and watch the game on a Sunday night in their boxers.  If you have to disagree with them, you don’t have to desecrate their dignity.  

I don’t believe that a difference of negotiable opinions suddenly means this person has failed you or fallen or gone off the deep end. 

Maybe these moments of disagreement can be an opportunity to extend grace and reach for what our mind hasn’t considered.  God does not contain His imagination within a handful of select people, and sometimes He will work through the sharp contrast of something you never heard before to open up your old walls.  It’s threatening, and it’s not always right — but let a new idea break through the familiar, and you may become free simply by the humility of embracing the other.


— J.S.


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5 thoughts on “I Don’t Like That One Thing You Said Once: Moving Past Disagreements

  1. A few thoughts here:

    If we both agree on everything, then one of us is redundant and unnecessary.

    I have learned much from those who disagree with me, and learned most from those who oppose me.

    Sooner or later, every pastor, teacher, boss, manager, coworker, or spouse will say something that we disagree with. It is a sign of maturity to be able to engage them in discussion without debating, degrading, or dismissing them.

    You have said some things that I don’t agree with. So what? It only becomes an issue if I make it one.

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    1. Absolutely! I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with 100% of anything that anyone has ever said, which would be impossible. Doesn’t mean I can’t love them, and in fact, could cause me to love them all the more.

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  2. Does this really happen? Do people just shut you out and never talk to you again just because you say some little thing that they don’t agree with? I find this really hard to believe. If that’s the case then how does *anyone* get along?

    I know I’m probably being totally naive here. I’ve been using the internet for 20 years and I’m still shocked every single time someone says something mean.

    I don’t know the story of why your friend left his church, but I’m guessing it’s more than just some vague feeling about feminism. Perhaps something the pastor said really cut to the core of some non-negotiable value that your friend felt was violated. Just because he was poor at recognizing or verbalizing the reason does not mean that there was not some serious problem. Unfortunately, most people are not in tune with how they really feel about things and most people also don’t know how to handle conflict very well.

    Your friend *should* have gone to his pastor and discussed with him in person the problem. That is very intimidating and I have found that many pastors are above reproach. 😦 It could have been some sin in your friend’s life that was hardening his heart to something the pastor was saying. It could have been some issue your friend was wrestling with. It could have been a major doctrinal difference/concern. Or it could have been your friend just being shallow and petty. I don’t know.

    What I do know is that I’ve heard many pastors complain that people leave churches for silly reasons and they blame our “me” culture and lack of patience. This *could* be it, but what if it’s for some more important reason? Unfortunately, you won’t really know the reasons why because most people won’t honestly tell you.

    The fact that you are an approachable person that is not above being challenged, allows discussion on these matters, is *amazing.* Thank you! This is a rare thing to see (I guess I’ve been going to the wrong churches?)

    I guess I’m just venting. If I’m hearing your heart right on the matter I think you are saying that we need to just *push in* and try to work through our differences. I totally agree. Even if/when it’s hard we need to do it, if possible. It’s important. And as the Church we let stupid stuff divide us. I get that.

    I agree with RPM Life Coach from above about it being a sign of maturity that we can work with people with disagree with. I wonder if it’s just a matter of immaturity and hopefully over time with age and more experience walking with Jesus we’ll all figure this thing out and work together? ::hopeful smile::

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    1. I’ve seen it happen from both sides, and while I always want to give the benefit of the doubt to either, sometimes it really comes down to an unfair dismissal with zero nuance or thoughtfulness. I’m reminded of the infamous words of John Piper when he said, “Farewell, Rob Bell,” even before Bell’s book had been released. I like both Piper and Bell, but this was a really an over-blown gesture of theatrics on Piper’s end.

      I do want to sympathize with both the speaker and the listener in these kinds of things. Sometimes leaders have obvious deficiencies in which it would be right for people to reject him or her. Other times it’s the listener who has been too harsh or judgmental. It really is a case by case scenario. But mainly, that’s exactly what I’m hoping for: that we treat each case with the fairness and grace it needs instead of hasty labels. I’ve probably failed at this just as much as I’ve seen others do so, and I hope we can go back to make that right.

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