Disagreements, especially in the Church world, have been happening for centuries. Most likely you have experienced some before and wrestled through how to handle them well.
Even before Jesus went to the cross, followers of Jesus disagreed with each other on a pretty regular basis. They debated upon who would be the greatest in His kingdom, the meaning of His parables, and even if fire from heaven should be called down to punish people (Luke 9:53-54).
After Jesus ascended, some disagreements among the disciples were so sharp that it resulted in ministries being divided (Acts 15:39). This is an old, old problem.
Sadly, disagreements can turn into full on arguments and cause disunity, frustration, and dare I say, even sinful behavior. Our conversations that begin with pure motives, somehow get lost along the way in our heightened emotion.
As you desire to pursue God’s heart in all areas of your life, knowing how to navigate disagreements IS A MUST. So before you enter that next debate, in person or online, here are eight things you shouldn’t do if you disagree with someone.
1. Assume the worst
Assuming the worst turns reality into a nightmare. When you enter a conversation already holding onto negative, preconceived notions about someone’s thoughts, beliefs, reasoning, and motives, it emotionally sets you up for failure.
Assuming the worst makes reality impossible to find because you won’t be seeking truth, you’ll be seeking justice.
Here is how this works in your life. Someone says or does something you don’t agree with and your response is often to assume the worst, not only regarding what they did but WHY they did it.
You fill in the “motive blank” and it causes you to immediately be defensive. When you assume the worst, NOTHING they say will make a difference, because you believe their heart is black or their brain is empty. Bottom line…
What should you do? Assume the best. Start the conversation assuming motives were pure and give grace if you find out they were not. Beginning any disagreement committed to assuming the best and extending grace, will always produce better results.
2. Turn to Others More Angry Than You.
Anger is never extinguished with more company. On the contrary, we experience deeper frustration and relational distance when we surround ourselves with people who are more upset.
Think about it. When was the last time you “vented” your frustration to another angry person and it calmed you down? My guess is probably never. Most likely it increased your blood pressure and gave you a whole new list of reasons why you are validated in your position.
Whether in person or online, we tend to draw closest to those who not only agree with us, but share in our frustrations. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this can be healthy. Having someone to speak with regarding your anger can be healthy if they give you Godly perspective.
However, let’s be honest, usually we turn to those more angry than us because we want them to validate our position of hatred. We often aren’t looking for someone to affirm our position, but justify our reaction to someone else’s. It’s not that you want to hear you are right, but you are justified in your response.
What should you do? Turn to Jesus. Jesus has a way of showing us what we should do with our frustration. Most likely, he’ll say to respond with grace. HE REALLY LOVES giving grace. Go figure.
Hopefully you’ll receive this advice better coming from Him, than if it was coming from your annoying friend or relative who just “doesn’t understand.” Our God gets it and can help you figure out how to sort through the emotions that come with it.
3. Stew in Anger
If you sit in anything for too long you’ll become attached. Gum, paint, that sticky leather chair you love, and the same is true with emotions. If you sit or stew in your anger, constantly replaying your grievances over and over again, eventually you’ll be stuck.
You’ll be stuck in a perpetual season of anger where everything makes you angry. You probably have already experience this reality. Something happens at work that really gets under your skin and when you come home, everything irritates you. Or maybe I should say, everyone. The way your spouse responds, the way your kids play, the way your house looks… everything turns into this melting pot of anger.
I hate to break it to you, but when you stew in anger toward someone, you’ll bring it home to everyone .
What should you do? Let it go!! Let it go!! I know, I’m sick for getting that song stuck in your head. But let’s not stew on it. In all seriousness, letting it go isn’t enough. You need to give it up. Give your frustration, anger, and hurt to the only one that can calm whatever is going on inside of you. Only Jesus can take it and do something awesome with it.
When you give up your anger to Jesus, He will always replace it with something better.
4. Feed the Fire
A fire doesn’t need gasoline unless you want it to explode. The same is true with any disagreement. Often when we disagree with someone we continue to feed the fire with more disagreeable comments.
This adds unneccessary fuel to the fire. Eventually, the conversation will explode if we aren’t careful.
In many disagreements people justify their comments with a desire to “speak the truth in love.” However, in speaking this truth, you really just end up sounding like a jerk. Not always because of how you say it, but simply because you are saying it.
When you try to convince someone why your position is more valid, they will see someone to debate and not someone who cares. There is a time and place to state your opinion and voice your concerns. But…
Relationships are always the foundation for healthy dialogue. Without a relationship, you’ll always been seen as an opposing position rather than a caring person.
What should you do? Seek to understand rather than be understood. This is nothing new. In any disagreement, seek first to understand where the person is coming from. Why do they believe the way they do? How did they come to this philosophy? Put yourself in their shoes and create empathy for them. If you care before you share, the conversation will go much smoother.
5. Allow Frustration to Turn into Hatred
Unchecked frustration is hate’s incubator. Eventually your object of frustration will become your heart’s enemy.
This usually happens gradually over time. Someone says or does something to you and you choose to bury it inside. More accurately, you store it up in the crevices of your heart to come back to at a later date.
The joking ridicule, the overlooked hard work, the uncelebrated accomplishment, the poorly timed comments, all these and more we store up inside of us. Often you don’t even notice this constant storing up until one day you realize,
I don’t really like that person. Actually I might just hate them.
Hate is a strong word, and maybe for this discussion it’s too harsh, but the harsh reality is that unchecked frustration will shape our heart to dislike others at beast, and hate them at worst.
What should you do? Pray for them. Again, nothing eye opening, but hopefully this reminds your head what you heart has forgotten. When you pray for them, it shapes your heart to display love toward them. Whenever you feel the seeds of hate growing within you, pray for their best and your heart will begin to overlook their worst.
6. Let it Distract You from Mission
No disagreement is worth someone’s soul. However, we often get so lost in disagreement that we forget the people we are speaking with need Jesus in their lives.
The sole mission of every disciple of Jesus is to help others know, love, and follow Jesus. That happens BEST in relationships. (Check out my interview with Carey Nieuwhof for more details on relational discipleship)
Unfortunately, relationships are fragile and messy and often require we pick our battles.
Too often we let our disagreements with others distract us from what’s most important. It’s ok to forfeit the battle if it means they will be more likely to hear you when you speak of Christ.
Finally, also realize that sometimes disagreements are just a distraction anyway. Some people will NEVER understand and that’s ok. But… do not let it rob you of the time you could have spent with someone who would hear the Gospel. Whether the distraction costs you time or emotional capital, invest both wisely for the kingdom.
What should you do? Focus on Jesus. Ask yourself the question, will this conversation help them take their next step toward Jesus? If the answer is no, then it’s just a distraction. More than that, it could be a stumbling block. Be so committed to helping people know and follow Jesus, that everything else pales in comparison.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)
7. Encourage Revolt
I feel almost silly having to write this one, but when you disagree with someone, don’t encourage revolt. Encouraging people to revolt is asking them to rise in rebellion against a person, organization, or community because you disagree with them. This is very different from respectfully disagreeing and continuing to carry out your beliefs.
Encouraging revolt is exactly what Jesus spoke against. Often those following Jesus wanted Him to revolt against the Roman government and establish His kingdom on earth. Yet, even with the rampant sin taking place, Jesus worked hard to stop revolt and encourage grace. Jesus stated our role in this life was to extend grace and leave the judgement to Him. Here’s the bottom line…
Revolt can’t produce the unity only grace provides. Only grace can accomplish Christ’s mission of saving the world.
What should you do? Encourage unity. You’ve heard it before, but Christians should focus on what we are FOR as opposed to what we are AGAINST. Primarily, we are for Jesus and His grace for all mankind. And this grace God wants to extend to those who have NOT committed to Christ AND those who HAVE committed to the relationship. BOTH groups still need God’s consistent and constant grace.
You don’t have to fund, celebrate, condone, or support those you disagree with. However, if you are going to take a stance on anything, use your voice to preach Christ crucified. Use it to encourage people to first come to Jesus, and then let’s focus on helping them trust Him with the details of their lives.
Finally, once in the family of God, ask Jesus…. what’s worth separating over? My guess is the list of things you want to divide His Church, will be much longer than His.
8. Assume Jesus Agrees With You.
Assumptions can be costly. Primarily this one. Assuming Jesus agrees with you can have massive ramifications.
That means you’ll enter into a disagreement assuming Jesus is with you, when He very well could be against you. As followers of Jesus we constantly need to pursue God’s heart and beg Him to guide ours. This pursuit changes our assumptions into conversations.
What should you do? Pursue Jesus for answers. This won’t always result in, thus saith the Lord answers, but at least you can enter into a conversation with a little more humility and integrity. Jesus has a way of shaping our conversations with others as we have conversations with Him. He trains and molds our heart in our pursuit of Him to love well those we disagree with.
What about you?
What would you add to the list or which of the above really hit home with you? Comments are celebrated below and hit the share button if this was helpful!