Putting disagreement in proper perspective

Image by Found Animals Foundation, used under Flickr Creative Commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/foundanimalsfoundation/8055192860/
Image by Found Animals Foundation, used under Flickr Creative Commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/foundanimalsfoundation/8055192860/

By Jenny Jordan

MONTGOMERY, Ala., January 12, 2014 — “There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” 

Those words are from a 1977 song by Dave Mason. The lyric captures such a beautiful and simple idea. Whatever the argument is, however enormous or insignificant it can feel in the moment, it’s just disagreement, nothing more and nothing less.

People have a hard time placing disagreement the little box where it belongs. They try to make it into something much grander and more hurtful. Disagreements lead to festering resentments, grudges and rejection, and they often annihilate relationships. How many friends, spouses, coworkers and family members have we estranged ourselves from because a disagreement became so much more than just that?

Our relationships with each other should bless all parties. It is true that some relationships are poisonous and should be ended, but it is likely that most broken friendships end because simple quarrels are given more importance than they deserve.

The book of Ephesians teaches us to put away our malice and bitterness, to instead be kind and tender to one another. It acknowledges that disagreements and bad feelings happen, then instructs us to let it go, and treat each other with kindness and love, and that in doing so we imitate God. What a powerful directive!

This all seems very simple and amenable when we think about the trite and petty arguments we all have, but what about the major disagreements? What about the fundamental ones, disagreements about religion and faith, politics, morals and values? The challenge is greater here, but the concept stays the same. The ability to reject a person’s values and still accept that person as friend, family, neighbor or lover is absolutely godly in its grace, not to mention its rarity.

You can reject the values, but still accept the person. We are more than our values.This is a universal concept. Think about the hardest person or issue to apply it to, and it still applies. After all, God loves all of us, and not a single one of us deserves it. If it’s good enough for God to love us despite our differences and disagreements, it certainly should be good enough for us to love one another.

Somewhere along the line, people decided that disagreement had great power, and that has had grave consequences. People have become afraid to disagree, for fear of abandonment or reprisal. This has led to resentment and has driven wedges not just between individuals, but between whole factions of people with different value systems and moral codes. We need to strip disagreement of this power, and put it back in its box where it belongs. Maybe then we can stop fearing it, start practicing it appropriately, and begin moving past it and saving our relationships.

All of this is on a timeline. Think about the last time someone you know died.  Maybe he was close to you once, but because of an argument, you drifted apart. You know that gnawing feeling you get when you realize the relationship is forever broken now – the one where you realize everything that was important enough at the time to completely break ties with the person was in reality just petty nonsense? That’s a beautiful and painful illustration of disagreement being given too much power.

So, disagree with gusto, and then love one another, remembering that neither act can diminish the other, unless you let it. Because in all of our normal, healthy relationships, there really are no good guys and bad guys, “there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”


Image: Image by Found Animals Foundation, used under Flickr Creative Commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/foundanimalsfoundation/8055192860/

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