Well, it’s 2020. And as I mentioned, I’ve already heard my fair share of references to 2020 vision and seeing clearly. I’m sure there are thousands more to come.

But if you’re like me, you’re probably a little concerned about what the climate of our country is going to be like as we get closer to the presidential election.

I mean, we’ve been hearing hate, spite, bitterness and all out rage for the past several years. With the advancement of technology we’ve been able to tailor our news feeds to primarily listen to the people we agree with and ignore those “on the other side.” The result has been greater entrenchment of our previously held beliefs and deeper dislike if not flat out hatred for those who don’t agree with us.

We’ve all become Matt Lauer. Prior to Christmas I wrote a spoof interview of myself with Matt Flower, based on the real Matt Lauer who was notorious for only listening enough to his interviewee so he could respond and say what he wanted. It was neither an interview or an interrogation. It was a speech prompt. (Sorry if you’re a big Matt Lauer fan, but I figure with his scandal he’s probably safe to poke at.)

But, what I mean is, if we actually talk to or listen to someone we disagree with, like Matt, we’re only listening to respond. We only listen enough to be able to make our point and prove why we are right.

So, what do we do? It would seem we have two options. 1.) Retreat further into the echo chamber and only talk with people who agree with us. 2.) We have to learn how to have gracious disagreements.

Option 1 will only widen the divide that separates us. If we want to see anything change, we have to start changing.

Somewhere along the way, we have lost the art of gracious disagreement. Instead of being able to separate the idea from the person, we hate combine the two in our minds and end up hating them both.

There are some ideas I will always hate. But I will never hate the person that holds those ideas. Now, there is a reason we have a hard time disagreeing with others. It’s because we’ve bought into the lie that truth is relative and that everyone can have their own truth. If I believe in “my truth” then someone isn’t just disagreeing with my idea, they’re actually devaluing me as a person. This makes gracious conversations more challenging.

But not impossible.

So, below are my 5 suggestions for helping to have more gracious disagreements.

1.) Stop listening, reading, watching, liking and sharing so many angry posts.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it. You don’t need to watch Fox News or CNN all day long. You don’t need to spend 3-4 hours a day reading articles about loving Trump or hating him. Think about it…

Chances are, if you’re watching those shows, you have already made up your mind how you’re going to vote. What good is going to come from watching 20 hours of liberal or conservative media? Your mind is already made up. And, you’re not going to convince someone who disagrees with you that you’re right based on your favorite news anchor’s opinion. That’s just going to make it worse.

So shut off the news channels on your TV, turn off the radio, unsubscribe from the podcasts and listen to something positive and encouraging like Mr. Rogers reruns.

Another note on this. Please stop sharing so many political posts on social media. They don’t help anything. The people who like and share them already agree with you and the people who don’t stop paying attention to you. I’ve hidden quite a few people on social media who share too many political posts.

2.) Humble yourself, realize you might actually be wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been wrong before. There are opinions that I held that I don’t hold anymore. Of course, when it comes to the core tenets of my faith, I haven’t compromised on anything and I won’t. But my opinion about politics has changed over my lifetime.

Then what makes it fun is when someone calls you out on it. “Hey you used to think this way and now you think that way. What’s up with that, hypocrite?” I changed my mind.

You see, politics isn’t always black and white. Most of the issues we argue about in this country are argued about because there are good, legitimate points on BOTH sides of the argument.

Just because you or I hold to an ideal does make it right. And just because someone else holds an ideal doesn’t make them wrong. You might both be idiots.

3.) Ask Questions, seek to understand the other person’s point of view. (And let the person answer)

Too often, when someone we disagree with starts talking about one of their beliefs, we stop listening. We stop trying to understand. But, what if instead, you asked questions to try to understand why this belief is so important to this person?

You know what you might discover. Either, this person holds this belief because of something person that happened to them or a decision they made in the past. Or…

Carey Niewhoff has made a comment about how we live in the era of deeply help poorly formed beliefs. That’s not an exact quote but close. We live in a world where people read a well written article, a polished YouTube video or a well done documentary and buy into the beliefs being sold without much consideration. Which leads me to my next point about questions.

What I have learned is that, there are a lot of opinions people have that they haven’t thought through. They strongly hold to an ideal but don’t really know why they do. Asking questions might actually help this person realize they haven’t thought something through and they have in fact simply bought into the talking points of their side.

4.) Share fewer of your own opinions than you ask of the other person. (And don’t talk over the other person.)

Last night, my wife and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof in Portland. I usually go home over one bridge, but decided to go back a different way. I followed the signs to get to the free way. One sign said, “I-5 North, second left.” So, we passed one street and then came to the second left. There was an I-5 sign with an arrow pointing left. So I turned. It was a one way street and I was going the wrong way. There were no signs that I saw that said do not enter, but all the arrows painted on the street were pointed at me. So, I turned on the next street. And it was a street only for the Portland street car, not regular traffic. Then we slammed face-first into a street car. Not really. I turned again the wrong way onto another one way street until I finally ended up on a two-way street. And a copy pulled up right next to us. Of course, we were worried he was going to turn on his lights. I looked at him and he smiled and drove on.

A good conversation is a two-way street. That’s just as important when you’re having a disagreement in a conversation. The point of the disagreement is not to win. You’re not on a debate team. There is no score to be kept. You win if you are still in a good relationship with the person at the end of the conversation.

Too often, we turn the wrong way. We decide we want to go face-first into the battle. Likewise, too often, that’s all that’s coming at us – one way traffic. Then we try to take the first out we find in the conversation, whether it’s for us or street cars.

Be as generous in letting the other person share their thoughts as you want them to be with. And don’t talk over the other person, that just adds to the tension.

5.) Remember every person is someone made in the image of God and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Just because someone holds to a different set of beliefs than you doesn’t make them less human. It’s lamentable that so much of our culture does the opposite. When someone disagrees with us, we look down our noses at them, belittle their existence for holding to such elementary beliefs and write them off entirely. We devalue the people who don’t agree with us, and no matter which side of an issue you are on, that is actually wrong. That is as sin. That is the great atrocity of the echo-chambers we live in.

This is going to sound a little bit preachy, but I am a preacher so, here goes: No human on the planet is of any less value than any other. And you or I have no right to belittle someone’s value or existence based on a philosophical disagreement. Even if you are absolutely convinced the other person is wrong and you’re right, you still don’t have the right to think of or treat another human being as less-human, less valuable, less dignified, less worthy than yourself.

Our media and our political leaders are setting a horrible example in this. (Another reason for not consuming so much of their propaganda.) Both sides ridicule and belittle the leaders of the other side on a constant basis. No matter how much I may disagree with their policies, they don’t deserve to be dehumanized. They are people made in the image of God and they ALL deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The same kind of respect you would give God himself.

Well, there you have it. I’m sure it’s not a perfect solution, but hopefully it’s a start. We need to be able to graciously disagree with one another. I have been blessed to have people in my life, with whom I strongly disagree on various issues. We have had disagreements, every once in a while they get passionate. But, for the most part, we are able to stay calm, acknowledge the validity of the other person’s point of view, share our own point of view and carry on with life. Usually, I can see more of the weaknesses in my understanding and I can do a little more research. It’s almost as if there is something more important than our own ideals.

You can do it too. And I hope you will. Feel free to share this post instead of one of those angry political posts you love sharing. Maybe this will start a discussion between you and someone else that will actually lead to the sharpening of your own ideas.