Every day, our news channels and Social Media pages are filled with stories which could make us angry. There are many viewpoints expressed on big political issues, and it can leave us wondering if it is possible to have a sensible discussion when we disagree with someone.
So, is it possible as Christians to remain friends with people with whom we disagree?
I think the answer is simple: yes! But it takes wisdom and discernment to find a way through.
In a time of tension, I thought I would share some practical tips.
Be intentional and attentive
My wife says I sometimes have ‘selective listening’, and in any political discussion, it is true that we often only hear what we want to hear. If we are debating an issue with a friend, we have to make time to be intentional in the questions we ask and also to be attentive. When we pay attention and really listen, we are able to hear not just the words that are being spoken, but what our friend is actually saying.
This is an old word now, but to ‘crusade’ means to be part of a vigorous campaign for political, social, or religious change. When talking to friends, we can be guilty of this. We might have strong views on a subject, but our chief objective is to try and get them to ‘join our camp’ and change their views rather than have an honest discussion. When we stop trying to persuade others to our way of thinking, we open ourselves up to understanding their views.
Relationships over winning
This is an important question to ask ourselves in any discussion: what is more important to me? The relationship I have with my friend or ‘winning’? It’s important to remember that in many senses, our friends’ views are sometimes a reflection of their identity. So when we try to ‘win’, they might see it as a rejection of themselves as a person. If we score our friendship highly and want it to remain in place, then we should always choose relationships over winning.
Beware of Social Media
I personally do not share political or controversial posts on Social Media. There are a few reasons for this, but one reason is that I do not want to be defined as a person who cannot have a reasonable discussion. I would far rather talk about big issues around a dinner table where people can understand my heart and passion. On a screen (where many others can see), it is very easy to misunderstand what a person means, so I avoid anything like that.
Agree to disagree
Sometimes, if we feel ourselves getting emotional or angry, we need to have the courage to walk away from the conversation. It is good to ask yourself the question: where is this conversation going? Is it leading to a good resolution? Or is it leading to more anger and upset? We have to be able to agree to disagree.
So, in answer to the question, is it possible to remain friends with people with whom we have differences, then I would go back to where I started and say a firm ‘yes’. As always, we need to apply wisdom and kindness, and above all, let us put our relationships first.