Three ways to disagree without being disagreeable

Beth Marshall

It can happen in a moment. You’re engaged in a casual conversation and suddenly a religious or divisive political hot-button issue comes up. How do you navigate the tension when you and another person have drastically different perspectives? Is it possible to share your Christian worldview truthfully, infused with love and kindness so people will actually want to hang out with you again?

“If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.”

Billy Graham’s beloved wife, Ruth Graham Bell, often shared the quote, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.” God designed each of His human masterpieces with a unique point of view.

The good news is, our differences don’t have to divide us. Whatever your disagreement, you don’t have to be disagreeable. These three strategies can help keep the dialogue open and respectful, even when your opinions are miles apart.

Listen More, Talk Less

One day I discovered a white plastic tube with no label: was it lip gloss or maybe a glue stick? “Lord, please let this be exactly what I need right now.”

Angry, loud opinions are not only annoying to the other person; intentional divisiveness is the opposite of what the Lord expects from those who profess to follow Him.

Listening quietly, then responding in a calm way will let the other person know you value their perspective. Kids are often encouraged to take a breath or count to 10 before reacting in a challenging situation — brilliant advice with biblical backing. James 1:19-20 says we should “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Love Is the More Excellent Way

You are not the Holy Spirit. Neither am I. When sharing the truth of God’s Word, it’s critical to do so without beating someone over the head with your monstrous hardcover Bible. Gently explain what you understand to be the truth, and trust the Lord to do what only He can do: change the person’s heart if it needs changing. Stay open to the possibility that your understanding of the Bible and what’s true could need a little tweaking as well. Either way, let the Lord do His work.

We are to value others above ourselves. If at any point, our communication moves from pointing them to God to convincing them we're right, we're failing (Philippians 2:3).

Agree to Disagree

In a presidential election year, right or wrong, left or right, everyone seems to have an opinion about hot-button political issues: the role of government, abortion, immigration, the environment, the rights of LGBTQ people, socialism, capitalism — you name it.

As Christ followers, our role — rather than dragging someone kicking and screaming to our political way of thinking — is to ask, “Am I showing the love of Christ through this conversation?” If you’re more interested in being right than being kind, it may be time to take a breath, count to 10, and ask the Lord what He would have you say...or not say (James 1:5).

Pursuing uncommon unity often requires us to have uncomfortable conversations. If you need help clarifying a confusing issue, stop by the Care Room after before or after a gathering. We'd love to provide you resources and pray for you as you head into a potentially difficult conversation. 

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