Agreeing to disagree - a precious gift
The importance of choosing your friends with care cannot be overstated considering the massive effect they have on who you will become. One characteristic I value in people I choose to befriend is the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.
A friend wrote the following during a discussion we had about gay marriage:
"People (and organizations) have different views on important issues, and in my view that's how our society should work. In the end society grows from a diversity of views. Sometimes that growth will be something we agree with, sometimes not.
"Empathy is an important characteristic to me. ... If a religious person is intolerant of my lifestyle, or someone in the gay community is intolerant of your lifestyle, well, obviously they're not a friend or someone to be around. I've previously shared that, without exception, all of my many experiences with my Mormon friends and coworkers have been entirely positive. Perhaps because I go out of my way to learn more about the church and their families.
"Just to share a bit about me, because I don't usually talk much about this, my partner and I had already put in place the legal protections to ensure we are covered in the event of an emergency, death, etc. I would say that both of us took a rather relaxed view about the whole gay marriage issue - it wasn't the most important issue to us."
It could be said that my friend and I disagree quite fundamentally about the role of marriage in society. However, we are so respectful of each other that it hardly feels that way, and our disagreement and mutual understanding have the potential to deepen, not destroy friendship. I added the emphasis above to draw attention to three points worth pondering and adopting in your own life.
- You largely determine the circle of your associates.
- Understanding and loving others takes effort.
- Regardless of society's course, you are responsible for your own well-being.
You largely determine the circle of your associates. My friend accurately pointed out that disagreeable people are not worth having in your life. Jesus Christ taught, "he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another." Notice that Christ did not condemn disagreement, but contention. The vast array of views in our world adds vibrancy to our lives and presents us with the opportunity to choose our own path. It is unhealthy to surround yourself with and trust only those with whom you agree, but you owe it to yourself to do away with those who want to pick a fight. Unfriend them, politely ignore them, if you must. Fill your life with productive and positive people.
Understanding and loving others takes effort. My friend went out of his way to learn about the Mormon church, an institution that opposes his views, but that is cherished by some of his friends. Orson Scott Card wrote in Speaker for the Dead, “When you really know somebody you can’t hate them. Or maybe it’s just that you can’t really know them until you stop hating them.” This, of course, can be difficult. And even painful. But the kind of friend you want is the kind of friend that will go the extra mile to be your friend.
Regardless of society's course, you are responsible for your own well-being. I can't speak for my friend, especially as to his desires and motivations, but I highly respect him for his proactive behavior and for essentially taking charge of his own destiny. We could all learn from his example. If ever you find yourself misunderstood, mistreated, or disadvantaged by society at large, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to fight for change. At the same time, what have you done to help yourself? Are there thing you could do to improve your situation without waiting for society to undergo a sea change? Are you letting your circumstances control your level of personal peace and happiness?
I am blessed with many friends who already live by these principles, and I am trying to live them better. Far more important than whether you agree with your friends on social, religious, or recreational issues (sports teams...cough, cough) is whether you can disagree with them without being disagreeable yourself.
So do yourself a favor. Get rid of dead weight. Get contentious people out of your life. You really don't need them, and there are plenty of delightfully agreeable people out there to take their place.
by Tyler Smith