How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

With a presidential election looming nearer by the day, debates are starting to fire up more regularly. Everyone seems to have an opinion about hot-button political issues: the role of government, immigration, the environment, socialism, capitalism, Nickleback — you name it! Regardless of what side of any given issue you might land on, it is safe to say that everyday situations are starting to feel a bit hostile. A simple conversation around the water cooler at work can take a turn for the worse when a political topic is brought up, and there is no guideline for determining how to act when this occurs. Do you share your opinion on the conflict or stay quiet? Do you keep Debbie and Scott from dueling it out yet again or decide that it is their problem and not yours? When faced with a potential HR nightmare, we need to remember that by following God’s word, it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

As Christ followers, our role is to ask the age old question, “What would Jesus do?” Rather than dragging someone kicking and screaming toward our own political view ask yourself whether you are showing the love of Christ through the conversation you are having. If the answer to this questions reveals that you are more interested in being right than being kind, it might be time to rethink your approach (Philipians 2:3).

God knew that conflict would be inevitable (just picture Thanos when he says “I am inevitable” in Avengers: End Game—he had the right idea). When conflict happens, we are to strive for full restoration (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV), aiming to build the relationship rather than letting an argument tear it apart. When we choose to fight the right way, our relationship can come out stronger because of the conflict, not in spite of it. Conflict can either deepen or derail our relationships, but with every conflict we face an opportunity to work through something and prove to our family, friends, and coworkers that our relationships are much more valuable than whatever we may be fighting over. 

So if we can’t avoid conflict altogether, how do we navigate tension when we and someone else have drastically different perspectives? Is it possible to share our Christian worldview truthfully, infused with love and kindness so people will actually want to hang out with us again? Proverbs 29:11 gives the advice, “Fools give vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Try to keep your temper in check and your emotions out of your voice. I’ve noticed when I consciously think about talking slowly, my tone naturally comes out calmer. As my grandma once said, “You attract more flies with honey than vinegar,” so allow honey to coat your words and speak your mind in a respectful, vinegar-free manner. Proverbs sheds light again in verse 13:3 with “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Too often we want to have the last word or be quick with our rebuttals that we completely skip thinking before we speak. Proverbs warns of what happens when we let loose words fly, but how instead we should guard our words wisely.

My grandmother also gave me the advice, “It is not you versus them. It is both of you versus the problem. Never stop being a team against the calls of satan.” Your relationship, whether with a spouse, a child, a dear friend, or a coworker, remains so much more important than the conflict ahead of you. So instead of being angry at the person, picture yourself as a team first getting ready to defeat the opposing side (aka conflict) and in true Nebraska fashion - root for the underdog! 

On the first Sunday of the new series Choose a Better Family, Pastor Jimmy emphasized exactly what my grandma had been trying to teach me. He said, “Remember this: that our struggle is not against them. It’s not against flesh and blood enemies. Our war isn’t against our spouse or that drug or even that ex. Our war is against the enemy who is out to destroy and devour everything that God himself created and every person that God has created.” Don’t allow your struggles and conflicts to create a divide between you and others, but instead remember the root cause is not them at all. While it might feel like a simple conflict, resolving the issue is much bigger than that. Our biggest enemy is hoping to tear apart the relationship and cause sin in the process. However, conflict and anger are not sins. It’s how and when we handle our conflict that can be a problem. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Resolving conflicts can be difficult, but it is much better to work on the relationship now than to allow the devil to work deeper still.

In the end, remember what you are fighting for. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love.” No matter the political issue, do not let the conflict divide you and another when instead you can choose love.