Written By Olivia Ow, Singapore
“Sorry, but I don’t agree with you . . .” This is usually followed by awkward silence and angry tears.
I’ve always found it difficult to disagree with someone, because I don’t want to lose a friend. I’ve found it even harder to accept it when someone disagrees with me, because my ego is hurt. When someone has a difference of opinion, I see it as the other person condemning, rejecting, or judging me—regardless of how the comment is expressed. I feel as though the other person doesn’t value me as a person and has overlooked or disregarded the effort and thought I’ve put into what I’m saying or doing. That makes me feel hurt, misunderstood, and belittled. So my usual response—before the other person gets a chance to explain why she disagrees with me—would be: “If you aren’t able to see my point of view or do things my way, then what you think isn’t worth my time or consideration either.” (That usually explains the angry tears.)
But I’ve come to realize that when a friend disagrees with me, sometimes she is simply saying, “I don’t agree with the method or the way things are done.” She still respects me as a person, and is merely pointing out an alternative way to look at a matter and asking me to consider it. She is simply commenting about my opinion, plans or actions, and not about my value as a person.
However, there may be times when my friend disagrees with me because I am sinning against God. That’s when I need to listen to what she says and act on it.
But this can get tricky: how do I know whether a friend is simply disagreeing with my opinion, or whether she is pointing out my sin? I’ve learned that one way to help my friends and I discern the difference, is for us to be open and honest with each other, and to voice our thoughts and listen to each other carefully—or at times, to agree to disagree.
At the end of the day, while we can’t control how a person will respond to our views, we can learn to disagree with our friends in love. When we are motivated by love, we won’t be self-righteous and feel that we are better than the other person. And that will help us to be sensitive, less emotional, and more objective in the way we express our opinions. A loving heart is humble (1 Corinthians 13:4). In the same way, we can also stay open to feedback from others, knowing that our friends may be correcting us in love (Galatians 6:1-4).
Christian writer Gordon MacDonald wrote: “There is a certain “niceness” to a friendship where I can be, as they say, myself. But what I really need are relationships in which I will be encouraged to become better than myself. Myself needs to grow a little each day. I don’t want to be the myself I was yesterday. I want to be the myself that is developing each day to be more of a Christ-like person.”
Good friendships build each other up, sometimes through disagreement and honest opinions. And while I don’t like being disagreed with, I’m starting to see the value of such disagreements.
Let’s strive to be better versions of ourselves and encourage our friends to do likewise too!