Listen Even When You Disagree
- Friday, June 10, 2011
The Retooled and Refueled Seminar happens on weekends, but when I am in town I have meetings. All of us have been in a staff meeting, at a church gathering, or in a conference where someone presented an idea or perspective with which we disagreed. Not just a little bit. Oh no. This person’s idea was the stupidest thing you’d ever heard! If you identify with this frustration, then what I’m about to share may be helpful.
I grew up with what sociologists are now calling a “modern worldview.” Simply put, this means that I (like most people from the eighteenth century forward) believe that truth is absolute. And if an individual simply stacks up enough facts, it will bring him to an inescapable, undeniable, and undisputable conclusion. While I do believe in absolute truth, I also am aware
that many people (predominately those under forty-five or so) don’t share my worldview. They are known as “post-modernists.” These people tend to believe that truth is relative. Some of this thinking harkens back to the 1960s and 1970s when we were told that “you’re okay and I’m okay” and “if it feels good, do it.” Summed up in a phrase, their life view essentially says, “What works for you is fine—but that same ‘truth’ may not work for me, and that is fine, too.”
While I am not an apologist for post-modernism, I do think there are some lessons for us modernists to learn from our younger friends—and them from us. As I said, I do affirm a belief in absolute truth. But, sadly, we modernists have gone to unforgivable extremes. In an attempt to “get it right” we have often allowed our fact-stacking to become the rankest form of legalism. And it’s that very arrogance that has emboldened the post-modernist to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. They look at those of my sort and say, “He has no passion, no soul. Everything is a matter of facts and data for that guy. What happened to his ‘heart’ and his imagination? Why isn’t he wondrously intrigued and mystified by the unknowable? Why does he claim to know more about God’s will than God has chosen to tell us? Where is the heart and soul—the mystery—in his faith?”
Those, my dear modernist friend, are fair questions. If we are ever going to have connection and rapport with others, we must first understand the viewpoint of others. And to understand another, we must really hear what she is trying to say. This doesn’t mean that I have to agree. But it also doesn’t mean that I must disagree disagreeably.
As a stepping off point, I would suggest that differing with another person does not require (or permit) me to diminish or deny his personhood. Most people speak words that they believe are true, beneficial, and affirming. They may be wrong—but it’s not always the wisest play for me to be the first to tell them so.
What if we did things differently? What if, instead of me protecting my own turf, I simply listened and pondered what is said? What if I made a concerted effort to look for the good, the positive, and the accurate in what he says? What if I sincerely searched for common ground?
I noticed this dynamic being played out in my own marriage a number of years ago. Granted, Bonnie and I are the same age and share a similar heritage. We’re pretty much on the same page in most situations. We agree on the big issues. But that is not to say we haven’t had our share of, shall I say, disagreements.
For the first years of our marriage I was an arrogant husband. Simply put: My way was right and Bonnie’s way was wrong. Of course, I was never bold (or honest) enough to state that in so many words—but looking back, I realize that’s what I believed. I was frequently dismissive and disrespectful of Bon’s positions and thoughts. But as the years passed, I finally began to
shut up and listen more. And you know what? I began to learn stuff. I began to witness a depth of wisdom that I had ignored and squandered to my own hurt for far too many years.
Often, as I was trying to break down the front door of the house by beating on it (frequently the male’s frontal approach to any challenge), Bonnie was quietly walking around to the back of the house, finding an open door, and walking through the house to open the front door that I was still beating on.
If we can simply learn to lead with the heart as we listen, relationships will improve. We may find that there is less distance between us than we thought. And when there are real differences that need to be discussed, we will have a bridge of relationship and mutual respect on which to travel from our side to the other. Paul was a man who had seen his share of conflict, yet as he grew in Christ he realized, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV). Life is too short not to build relationships.
Steve Diggs is best known for 2 internationally acclaimed seminars that he has presented at nearly 500 churches. Steve can be reached through either of the websites below, or call him at 615-300-8263.
No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar teaches God's people how to use God's money God's way. More at www.NoDebtNoSweat.com.
ReTooled & ReFueled: The Essential Christian Life-Skills Seminar shows Christians how to live for the beautiful bye and bye—while dealing with the nasty now and now. More atwww.RetooledAndRefueled.com.
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