Disagreement as an Art Form

A few weeks ago, Chris wrote about being a jerk online. My guess is that if you have been on any sort of social media in the last few days, you have probably seen a bit of this going on.

My friend Phil recently shared an article with me about why this has become such a problem. The article cites that distance from the person in conflict, anonymity and the ability to be much meaner in print than in person have formed to make a perfect storm for online issues.

They also found that not only does being a jerk online create hostility, it is addictive. Once we get in the habit of spewing hate all over the internet, we begin to enjoy it and continue to go back and back and back. The conversation that used to only take place between you and the shower wall is now displayed for all to see. And eventually that kind of unchecked aggression spills out into real life.

But I found their solutions to all of this fascinating:

For their part, people should seek out actual human beings to converse with, Markman said — and we should make a point of including a few people in our social circles who think differently from us. “You’ll develop a healthy respect for people whose opinions differ from your own,” he said.

Working out solutions to the kinds of hard problems that tend to garner the most comments online requires lengthy discussion and compromise. “The back-and-forth negotiation that goes on in having a conversation with someone you don’t agree with is a skill,” Markman said. And this skill is languishing, both among members of the public and our leaders.

We need to learn the skill of disagreeing. It is an art form. And it is one that is being lost. When I take away face to face interactions from those different from me, I am robbing myself of something beautiful.

Because the moment I take away a face from an issue, I begin to demonize. I dig into my position a little bit deeper, and am a little less willing to hear what others have to say.

Which can morph into grand, public battles over chicken. Lines in the sand are drawn and you better be in the right side (no matter which side of that you land on).

Is this really the life God intended?

Perhaps this is why Jesus says that at the first sign of conflict we are to go to people face to face. We look them in the eye. We practice the art of back-and-forth negotiation.

My prayer is that we always have difficult people in life. I told a good friend tonight, that as we make a move to a new city, I pray that I will always have people in my life I disagree with. It is a source of beauty I cannot get anywhere else.

…If I am willing to sit down with a person who disagrees and look them in the eye. We need our difficult people up close and personal.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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6 thoughts on “Disagreement as an Art Form

  1. Great sentiments, here. You and I don’t know each other, but here’s an epiphany that came to me this week, I believe from God:

    The Fruits of the Spirit – the way others can see us and know we are Christians – are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self Control.

    NONE of these fruit are grown in an online battle on a message board or Facebook, no matter which side you are on or which issue you discuss. Every person involved ends up looking angry, spiteful, and hypocritical.

    I think as a Christian I am being called to behave better than that. It might be too late to change what I’ve already said online, but it’s not too late to stop showing the moldy parts of my spiritual fruit.

  2. Taco Dave said : “The Fruits of the Spirit – the way others can see us and know we are Christians – are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self Control. NONE of these fruit are grown in an online battle on a message board or Facebook, no matter which side you are on or which issue you discuss. Every person involved ends up looking angry, spiteful, and hypocritical. I think as a Christian I am being called to behave better than that.”

    If I am being honest; I think that most times I look at statements like this and look for something to get offended at, and that is just plain crazy. I don’t know why so many people are looking for a fight or ready to get defensive, but that seems to be a big characteristic of online interactions that occur between people of varying belief systems. I am sad to say that often I look for a good fight to wade into.

    The reality is that Taco Dave and I have a lot in common. As a person who ascribes to a more secular humanistic point of view, my belief is that we should seek to develop and improve our ethical principles by examining the results they yield in our lives. Dave believes that the quality of his actions and beliefs are revealed in spiritual fruits that are manifested in his behavior and that these are evidence of God’s presence in his life. Essentially we both believe that our actions bear out the fruit of our intentions. His (he believes) come from God, mine (I believe) come more from a process, but we are both striving for the same thing: trying to find the best way to interact with those around us.

    I find that the more I can respect our common ground, then the less I tend to take the differences so personally. At the point where I begin to see a person going through life trying to do the best they can, I also begin to see someone that I can learn something from.

  3. Thank you Trevor and to the two posters above – I have been to the point I was about to get off of facebook entirely this week. The comments, the posts about this issue or that. Much of it negative. It is very discouraging to me. If you disagree on the issues – you are assumed to be clearly pro this or pro that or anti this or anti that. One of the things I have the most problem with is bashing others through e-mails or any other social media – whether it be our leaders, other groups, celebrities, whoever. These negative e-mails and comments are nothing more than gossip about issues that more often than not we have no idea what the truth is. We forget way too often that those e-mails or comments we pass along are about real people, and are about people that God loves. Like was stated above – when we aren’t face to face with these people, it is very easy to demonize them.

    God has called me to be a light in the world and in my opinion some of the issues being pasted all over facebook are not 1) productive, 2) do not show the kind of light that God calls us to be. I don’t want to follow the far right or the far left, any man, woman, program or agenda. I simply want to follow Jesus and be his light in the world. Trevor I will never forget your sermon about coming to the table, with each seeking that common ground, not being threatened, angry, defensive,without agenda. Accepting our differences and celebrating that. As always, thank you for your insight and encouragement.

  4. Thank all three of you for your thoughts! It bothers me how quick we are to throw up opinions and judgments online and constantly look for things to rant about. I don’t think that helps build relationship or show love. If we could focus more on those things than the constant need to rail against other people our world would be a lot better off. Thanks for the discussion!

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