How often do you read or listen to content that you know you will disagree with? You may wonder why I would ask such a question, but this practice of consuming content you know you will disagree with is a practice I’ve found to be helpful in many ways:
- It helps me to better understand “the other side”.
- It helps me to better understand and articulate my own positions and ideas.
- It provides perspectives or scenarios I hadn’t previously considered in my own reasoning.
- It gives me a sense of the pulse of the culture.
- It provides information which in turn helps me to maintain a positive attitude and calm demeanor in the face of disagreement.
This practice of listening to understand the other side is a journey that many people appear to be on. Those who take this path are to be commended as it takes a good deal of effort and time to better understand other people and their perspectives, but everyone has their breaking point.
It has been my experience that most people are open to having their mind changed or at the very least agreeing to disagree until you hit THAT subject. What is THAT subject? Before we answer this question let us understand that what we have seen so far.
The journey of understanding other people and their perspectives represent what I am going to refer to as our ‘bending points’. These are the places where we are willing to have our mind changed or be okay with a someone holding a different viewpoint. In contrast to these ‘bending points’ are our ‘breaking points’. These are the places where we refuse to have our mind changed. Unfortunately, discussion around these ‘breaking points’ do not possess the same niceties and politeness of those concerning our ‘bending points’ and it’s all because of THAT subject.
THAT subject could be theological in nature. Recent discussions around “new heavens, new earth” eschatology come to mind here. THAT subject could be social in nature like the discussion around abortion. THAT subject could be medical in nature, take vaccines or the current COVID-19 situation for example. THAT subject could be political in nature. THAT subject could be guns, or homosexuality or the economy or church function, etc.
I do not believe that it is wrong to have breaking points. Strong, reasoned opinions are worth defending. At some point, we make a stand on one of those strong, reasoned opinions. Again, this is not bad, but the attitude and actions that accompany those stands very often are.
Breaking points can sometimes be where our listening stops. The discussion no longer becomes about learning or hearing out the other side, but instead becomes an impassioned defense with each side vying for the title of “I am right”. Patience, benefit of the doubt, and reasonable conversation are given over to anger, attacks, and emotionalism. Breaking points are not bad, but these behaviors are.
So what do we do? Choose your battles carefully. Consider what is lost by your stand on THAT subject. Does it harm or help your influence? Does it potentially destroy an important relationship (this one is especially important for Christians to consider)? Paul’s words in Colossians 4:6 bear repeating here:
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Take a stand against injustices, falsehoods, and lies, but do so in a spirit of kindness and love (Eph. 4:15). In all discussions and disagreements, we remain image-bearers of God and must always place that first, even when we’re ready to break.