I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about a controversial local issue in our community. We were both passionate about it, and we both had formed our narratives about it. As we were talking, I could feel his energy and emotion increase. Mine too. As I was listening, I could empathize with his perspective. He did the reciprocal with me. Each had some facts the other did not have. Finally, he said, “Let’s just agree to disagree.” I responded, “You and I can do that. It’s a shame so many others in our community can not.”
Neither of us was consumed by being right or proving the other wrong. Neither of us was letting bitterness or hatred about the issue overshadow our friendship or compassion for each other. We placed the health of our relationship above everything else.
The conversation reminded me of a framework we use on my local school board to make decisions. I am its treasurer and a 9-year school director elect. We call the framework DECIDE.
Debate. Engage. Collaborate. Innovate to find solutions. Decide and move on. Elevate people.
The conversation between my friend and me was a microcosm of this governance framework. No matter what side of the decision you may fall, after you have had a chance to weigh in and engage in healthy conflict, a decision is made and you move on. No harboring of anger or bitterness. No disrespect. No sour grapes. No gossip. No slander.
It seems like the majority of adults today are unable to agree to disagree. Often, that rubs off on children too. Gone is the civility of the art of persuasion of minds and hearts. Nonconformity is met with dire consequences. DECIDE offers a much better alternative. Weigh-in and attempt to persuade, but if unsuccessful, be humble, respectful, and loving in defeat. Learn to live to persuade another day. Learn from what worked and did not work, and try again when the opportunity arises. No need to “scorch the earth.” No need to scorch lives, families, communities, and organizations.
Understanding the core of this problem is not possible without understanding what “loving your neighbor” really means. Reconciliation of any kind is too big to be solved by plans that begin in the minds of humans. This is a God-sized problem and is one that can only be solved with help from the Holy Spirit. It requires the quality of love that only God can provide. It reveals the secret thread that forges friendship despite enormous differences in class, temperament, culture, race, sensibility, and personal history. A friendship that is about something. An underlying commonality that builds the most powerful, cohesive team. Our commitment to reconcile is only possible after we love God first with all our mind and heart. It’s conditional and in that order. Love God first. Love your neighbor as yourself second. The latter will happen when the former is done.
Then, and only then, can we agree to agree or agree to disagree in a neighborly loving manner. If you agree with me, I love you. If you disagree with me, I love you. Let’s just move on as brother and sister with the Holy Spirit as our helper.