We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another. TobyMac
This quote came through my Facebook feed back when I was first trying to figure out how to shape this blog. I knew a lot of what I wanted to write about was this really high controversy stuff, and the last thing I had the energy for was devoting a large chunk of my very precious free time to inciting contentious brawls.
Mr. McKeehan’s comment reminded me that tough topics have to be talked about, but how you talk about them can make all the difference.
We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.
Splendid! I had, thankfully, grown into this concept prior to Mr. McKeehan’s note, but I’ve got to tell you, it didn’t come naturally.
I was pretty familiar with the ‘Do Anything, Agree With Everything, Rather Than Face Any Conflict’ camp.
And I had always been more of a fight than flight kind of girl, so while I didn’t view disagreement as necessarily scratching and pulling hair, brittle civility was a much closer image than kindness.
I did eventually meet people who somehow had the gift of standing their ground but still being lovely, and loving, people. I’m not quite one of them yet, but by my 90s I may have it down.
At just this point in writing this post, I found myself in a Facebook comments conversation on this very topic.
Most of the commenters were in agreement with a meme about being kind whether we agree or not, but one woman, who had been terribly hurt by really appalling racism was adamant that she could not be kind to people on ‘the other side’. From the comments that she related, I could certainly understand why; I was embarrassed just to share skin colour with the people who had said these things to her.
This conversation gave me a lot of food for thought. Belabouring the point with a complete stranger in serious pain just for the sake of my research didn’t seem quite, well, kind, but I thought I’d ask everyone here:
What does it look like to be kind when we, perhaps vehemently, disagree?
I definitely do not believe in placing oneself, or remaining, in a situation where someone demeans or abuses you. I don’t believe in pretending to have no opinions just to avoid conflict. I do not respect people who do not, by their character and actions merit respect. But I think I do have an obligation to TREAT them with respect – which I define as being decent and kind to them.
To me this looks like arguing the issue rather than attacking the person. Like not insulting or belittling the person I disagree with, or trashing them to others. It looks like treating them with human decency throughout, and despite, the argument. Listening in an effort to understand. Speaking quietly and calmly, if I can; apologising and regrouping if I can’t.
For Christians, I also see it as praying for them – and NO, not just that prayer for God whack them upside the head! I mean truly seeking God’s best for them.
Sometimes it means agreeing to disagree; sometimes it means agreeing to not touch on that topic to preserve the relationship.
And for those who truly are abusive and uninterested in civil discussion, I see it as walking away from them, the argument, without having to attack them as human beings, without having to hurt or humiliate them, simply doing what is necessary to avoid them harming you or others. (*see footnote though!!)
But my brief conversation with this lady on Facebook reminded me that it doesn’t look the same to other people.
So how about it?
What does it look like to you to be kind to one another even if we disagree?
Is it even possible?
Do you think it has merit?
* Let me be clear, I am talking here about normal disagreements between people who have the same degree of power, which have turned nasty in the heat of the argument; not about actual physical, sexual, or verbal/emotional abuse. True abuse does not necessarily obligate you to be cruel to the abuser, but PLEASE do whatever is necessary, physically, and legally, to stop the abuse and prevent it from happening again. And seek support to recover from it, and whatever made you vulnerable to it.