by Eric Gudan, PsyD
Disagreements are part of our fallen human nature and original sin. It’s perfectly natural to want others to agree with us, especially those closest to us. When others hold the same point of view, it makes us feel better about our thoughts, decisions and actions. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, having others affirm what we believe often feeds our prideful desires.
Most of us see disagreements as a negative part of life. They can be hurtful and damaging to relationships. They can cause hate and resentment. They can feed grudges that last a lifetime. So, how can something that’s a result of original sin as well as (excuse the pun) so disagreeable to society help lead us to heaven? We know that all things work together for the glory of God for those who love the Lord. The answer, then, is by using those disagreements as a challenge to maintaining loving relationships with God and one another.
Separate the Person from the Disagreement
We’ve all heard the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin.” The same idea pertains to handling disagreements. The first step in maintaining relationships through disagreements is to remember that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God. That means that you and the other person are lovable. Period. The disagreement needs to be held separate from the people involved.
Practically speaking, you want to refrain from attacking the other person in a disagreement. Work to eliminate name-calling and insults during the discussion and focus on the actual topic you’re trying to work through. On the flip side, you’ll need to be healthy and confident enough to parse out any personal attacks and insults that come your way and focus on the topic instead.
Remember that Reality is Greater Than Perception
When we learn about the mysteries of our faith, we need to accept the fact that much of Christianity simply has to be accepted because God says it’s so. Our limited human intelligence can not grasp all the divine whys and wherefores, and we must trust that God reveals what we need to know to find our way to Him by the end of our earthly lives.
Another example that is perhaps closer to home involves looking at an unborn baby. That baby’s perception of life is limited. Food and water come when they are needed; waste is taken away. Temperature is maintained, and the baby is protected from many outside dangers. However, that baby cannot understand the reality of the world outside the womb because his perception is limited.
It is the same for all of us. We have a limited perception based on our experiences, learning and understanding. The complete reality of the human experience simply cannot be held by one person. Keeping this in mind can help us remain humble and allow God and others to help reveal other aspects of reality that we simply cannot see.
Find Truth and Beauty in Others’ Perspectives
Listening to those who disagree with us can help enlighten our minds. This is not, however, a ticket to mediocre compromises or a nod to relativistic truth. It is instead encouragement to seek the good, true and beautiful in others’ perspectives so you can gain a greater understanding of true reality.
When we look for the good, even in disagreements, and seek to achieve a more accurate understanding of God’s reality in our world and beyond, the disagreements themselves become both a tool to help us grow closer to God as well as a challenge to love and maintain relationships with our neighbors through a potentially negative interaction.
Both those efforts help prepare us to embrace our final destiny in heaven, where we are called to intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity.