You have probably heard the remark, “We can agree to disagree.” The expression promotes an admirable idea for a peaceful compromise, but I recently heard a comparable phrasing that paints an even more attractive picture. I heard someone say, “We don’t have to see eye to eye in order to walk hand in hand.” I love that expression because, as followers of Jesus, one of our biggest challenges is to love and respect people with whom we disagree.
Our culture has adopted a lie that supposes if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, decisions, or beliefs, then you do not love or respect that person. There is nothing further from the truth. People do not need to agree with each other in order to sincerely love each other. In fact, learning to disagree graciously and respectfully is one of the most loving things we can learn to do.
So how can we show others, specifically our own children, love and respect alongside conflict and disagreements? Engaging in any level of disagreement while maintaining a posture of love and respect certainly poses challenges, but there are a few things that can help.
Affirm your love verbally, listen attentively, and purpose in your heart to love unconditionally.
There is rarely a better opportunity to verbally affirm our love for our children than when we are in direct conflict with them. No matter how we are feeling, we must be willing to look our children in the eyes and let them know that, like their heavenly Father, we will never give up on them and will always love them (Romans 8:38). We must encourage our children that we will love and respect them as God’s wonderful creations no matter how much they might disappoint us. Genuine words that affirm unconditional love, especially in times of disappointment, have the power to encourage our children to believe that our love for them, and God’s love for them, is secure—not based on performance or agreement but rather on the grace and assurance of Jesus Christ.
Occasionally, a conflict will erupt between my 15-year-old son and me. I have the tendency to be impatient, and I will sometimes use my authority to quickly shut him down. When this happens, my son ends up feeling hurt, misunderstood, disrespected, and unloved. I have learned to obey the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit, to show love and respect by taking the necessary time to try to understand and be a better listener. When I show interest in my son’s feelings by taking the time to listen and make things right with him, he feels loved and respected, even if we might still disagree on some things. We can love with our ears. Listening leads to understanding, and understanding leads to stronger relationships where we can walk hand in hand even when we don’t see eye to eye.
Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2 NLT)
When we were opposed to Christ, He laid down His life for us (Romans 5:8), and it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). As representatives of Jesus, we must be willing to love like Him. We must model true love and respect to all people by being willing to listen and, when appropriate, to speak. When we do speak, may it be with kindness, grace, and humility, especially to those with whom we disagree.