“You know we can disagree,” he told me.
I was at a Christian retreat called Souly Business. I asked one of my table participants a question about the talk we’d just heard.
When he answered me, I said, “I don’t believe you are telling us the whole story here.” Then I gave my opinion on how he should have answered.
That’s when Paul, another man at our table, looked right at me and said, “You are wrong. You are not listening to him.”
When he told me this, I had to take a breath.
It didn’t feel good to be told I was wrong. But I knew I was there to listen. By listening I was demonstrating how much I valued what others had to say. To really listen, I had to take the time to understand.
I actually said to myself, “It is OK for us to disagree.”
Then he said to me right after I had this thought, “You know we can disagree.”
This is when I realized Paul and I were in agreement.
I replied, “You’re right. We can disagree and still be friendly to each other. We can still be friends because we love and respect each other. It is OK.”
A similar thing happened a few times during that three day retreat. As each day passed, we became closer and closer to each other at our little table. By the evening of the second day, we stopped judging each other. By the morning of the third day, we really accepted each other. By that afternoon, we loved each other.
We certainly didn’t agree on everything, but we listened to each other and learned a little bit about each other’s fears and struggles. This level of honesty brought us closer to each other and closer to God.
On the way home I continued to think about what Paul had said, how it is OK to disagree and about how love and respect make it all work.
I thought, “This is what seems to be missing in our society, maybe in many of our closer relationships.”
We are afraid to disagree.
We don’t want to offend.
So we say nothing which shows any of what we are really thinking or feeling. Because we say nothing, we remain isolated. We never get closer. We never show our fears and struggles.
We are never true friends.
We never fall in love.
It’s okay to disagree.