10 Biblical Ways to Make Disagreements More Agreeable
- Janet Thompson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- Updated Jun 26, 2019
We’ve all been there: that moment when you feel your face turning red, your mind racing, your stomach churning, and your fist clenching. You’re mad. Really mad. Maybe it was something the other person said or did, or maybe it’s something they didn’t say or do. Everything in you wants to lash out, fire back angry words, or maybe worse.
But then you remember the message you heard a few weeks ago at church on living in peace with everyone. Seriously? How can you just let this go? When should you move on? How do you know when it’s a dispute you need to settle?
So you take a deep breath and try to remember what the pastor said in that sermon. There’s a good chance he included these 10 reminders from the Bible:
1. Pick your battles.
You’ve probably heard the military adage “Is this the mountain you want to die on?” The surmised answer is “No,” it’s not worth the fight. Not every issue is worthy of a heated discussion. Sometimes we really need to overlook an offense.
But don’t tuck it away as ammunition for another time. Choosing not to confront doesn’t mean stuffing your anger. If you can’t let it go, then bring it up.
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. – Prov. 17:14
2. Stay in the moment.
Stick with the current issue. Don’t bring up past disagreements or something the person did last year, last week, or even yesterday.
The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time, you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ – Luke 15:28-30 NLT
3. Don’t use attack words.
Some words make things personal and raise the other person’s defenses: you, always, never, all, every time, stupid, worthless, dumb, good for nothing, and lazy. Also don’t resort to curse words, name-calling, or taking the Lord’s name in vain.
It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth. – Matt. 15:11
4. Don’t verbally abuse the other person.
Remember the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me?” Even as children, we knew this wasn’t true. Mean, vengeful, degrading words do cut to our very core and leave painful emotional wounds that can take a long time to heal, or maybe never.
As much as we might try to apologize or say we didn’t mean it, we can never take back our words: they reflect what’s in our heart.
The words of the reckless pierce like swords,but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Prov. 12:18
5. Don’t raise your voice.
As an argument escalates, so do voices.
Soon we can find ourselves yelling and even screaming at each other. Neither can hear the other and it often leads to actions we would never take if we were talking in a normal rational tone. If the other person raises their voice, don’t match them.
Let it be your cue to lower your voice. Chances are the other person will lower their voice too.
Take control of what I say, O Lord,and guard my lips. – Psalms 141:3 NLT
6. Don’t walk away in the middle of a discussion without stating that you’ll be back soon once you calm down.
Suddenly in the middle of a discussion, the other person, or you, walks out of the room without resolving the situation. One of you is left standing alone and frustrated.
It’s as if the person leaving the conversation is saying, “I’m not listening to your side any longer. Only my way is right and I’m done trying to see things your way.”
Or the discussion could be escalating and you feel yourself losing control of your anger. You know you need to walk away and regroup. State that you need a couple of minutes to defuse and you’ll be right back.
Walk away, take a deep breath, pray for guidance, and then reengage.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. – James 1:22-24 The Message
7. Don’t disagree in front of others—especially the kids.
You’re out in public and someone says or does something that offends you. Everything in you wants to lash out right then regardless of who is around. We’ve all watched this with couples, and maybe we’ve even done it ourselves.
I’ll never forget my ten-year-old granddaughter’s comment when my husband and I were disagreeing over something in front of her: “I guess couples get grumpy when they get older.” I asked her where she heard that and she said, “I’m listening to it!” Oh, that was a dagger straight to my heart.
We’re to be God’s role model of grace and mercy, especially to each other. We can have disagreements, but be sure they’re behind closed doors, just between the two of you. Or arrange to meet the other person in a quiet place where you can talk out your issues privately.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Eph. 4:29
8. Don’t discuss multiple grievances.
Stick to one topic per discussion.
We’ve saved up a litany of grievances that we haven’t brought up before, but since we’re arguing, we might as well clear the air and get them all out on the table. Wrong! That is unfair and unproductive.
Even when the other person tries to bring up the past and go on rabbit trails, always bring the discussion back to the current topic. Suggest you can talk about the other things at another time, but right now let’s resolve one problem at a time.
Angry people stir up a lot of discord;the intemperate stir up trouble. – Prov. 29:22 The Message
9. Don’t assume the other person is guilty.
Think the best before thinking the worst.
In today’s culture there seems to be the attitude that if you disagree on an issue, the other person is wrong. Or, they’re even a bad person because you see things differently. That kind of attitude leads to closed minds and closed ears.
The goal is to arrive at an agreement, which often means civilly agreeing to disagree, shake hands, and move on.
He who tells his story first makes people think he is right, until the other comes to test him. – Prov. 18:17 The Message
10. Don’t procrastinate.
Deal with issues as they occur, but don’t start a discussion while the other person is driving or in the middle of a project, like preparing dinner or at work.
I’ve learned this lesson in our marriage. One of my favorite lead-ins to a discussion is, “I’ve been thinking...” Or “I want to talk to you about something...”
I know I need my husband’s full attention for a discussion, and in the past I would try to bring things up while he was driving. Here’s the problem with that idea: it takes all of his attention to drive. So, that’s not the time he wants to get into a full-on discussion. It’s also not good to wait all day and then pounce it on him just before he falls asleep.
But if I wait too long, I’ve played the situation over and over in my mind and it gets bigger and bigger until when I do present him with it, he feels blindsided and attacked. It’s a delicate balance of finding the appropriate time to deal with issues quickly, before they fester.
Now listen, you who say,‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. – James 4:13-14
God wants Christians to be of one accord in all our relationships, both personal and spiritual. He gave us numerous guidelines in the Bible because He knew we humans are filled with pride, ego, differences, and opinions. We’re going to disagree. That’s also the beauty of unique personalities. Often seeing things through someone else’s view gives us a new perspective.
But what the world needs to see from us as believers is that we live in peace with one another, whatever it takes to achieve it.
A house divided cannot stand, and with all the division in our world today, the church must stand together firm in the belief that our God reigns and His Word determines how we navigate our relationships.
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. – 1 Cor. 3:11
Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 20 books.Her passion is to mentor other women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness, which is the subtitle of her latest release, Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faithreleases September 10, 2019. She is also the author of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; The Team That Jesus Built; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer;Dear God, He’s Home!;Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources. Janet isthe founder of Woman to Woman Mentoringand About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet and sign up for her weekly blog and free online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com.
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