Discord, Relationships, and Commitment

What to do when you disagree with someone, yet want to maintain a relationship.

We live in a world where our differences are more defining than our similarities. Differences that used to be simple differences of opinion now often divide us in politics, business, faith, and relationships. As an example, consider the political hostility that divides our nation today.

We have become a society where people struggle to stay connected with those they have differences. It is a connection with others that allows us to relate to them as well as influence them. Jesus Christ once proclaimed, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Peacemakers work hard to lessen the conflict that differences can bring so that we can disagree but stay in a relationship.

Here are a few ways that we can handle with differences while staying in a relationship with the world around us.

ONE | Learn to value our unique differences as well as our similarities.

If everyone thought the way I do, the world would be a dull and homogenous place. I have learned to value the opinions of others when they differ from mine, and in almost all cases their point of view has some validity to it. If I can appreciate differing opinions, I will respond to those who think differently than myself with inquisitiveness and questions rather than defensiveness and anger.

TWO | Practice “self-definition” and encourage it in others.

Self-definition is the ability to know what we believe, state it clearly, and remain in relationship with others. It is the opposite of “group think” where we pretend to agree with others fit in with the crowd. Self-defined individuals also encourage others to be self-defined by responding with interest to their views.

THREE | Practice staying connected with those who are radically different from you.

Practicing connection is a relational skill that can and should be learned. It has a lot to do with our attitude. Even in cases where we violently disagree with the view of another, learning to keep our emotions and thus attitude in check and not allowing the opinions of others push our "buttons" provides conversation rather than conflict. I make it a point to try to stay connected with those who think the most different from me. It is both a healthy challenge for me and gives me the opportunity to influence their thinking through relationship.

FOUR | Make a distinction between the opinions of others and your relationship with them.

Relationships indeed can be built on shared interests and views. This is normal. But remember that they can also be built on the fact that we are fellow human beings who share similar challenges in life: Family, jobs, kids, finances, desire for significance and all the rest of what makes up life. We may or may not be “best friends” with those who are most different from us, but we can find common ground in a relationship with them.

In a world divided by so many issues, those who can remain connected in spite of the differences are those with the most influence. Without connection and relationship, it is almost impossible to be a person of influence. As men of God, we want to be like Jesus who went out of his way to stay connected with those around Him.

Vince Miller Founder of ResoluteVince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to men and has a deep passion for God’s Word. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men. He is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here.