SCOT BELLAVIA: Why We Can’t Just “Agree to Disagree”

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In a nation that is becoming increasingly polarized, people are beginning to call for peaceful discourse and kinder treatment of others. Americans are growing weary of the entrenching of beliefs on both sides of the aisle. Every election cycle, people tire of the mud-slinging campaign ads and overall negativity. Calling for more respect in the public sphere is a positive and necessary action step in order to have fruitful discussions and to get things done.

In some ways though, I think the logical end to this peace-seeking is being contented in a compromise where each side simply agrees to disagree. It makes sense to stop the conversation to prevent conflict but this ultimately results in a concession where neither opinion is fully expressed and real care for the other is not allowed to be given.

Certainly, there are issues where the relationship is best served by ending the conversation, recognizing the other side won’t be convinced. These are the hills not worth dying on.

Many couples, in their first year of marriage, discover how different they are from their spouse. All her life, the wife lived in a home where the toothpaste was rolled up, where the dishes got done right after dinner, and toilet paper was torn from the front. All his life, the husband knew a world where the bed was made first thing in the morning, clothes were set out for the following day, and the trash can was left outside.

Neither spouse can fathom how anyone could think otherwise. But as their newlywed love covers a multitude of sins, they meet halfway on these habits and see how a house can function with backward toilet paper, a messy bed, and an indoor trash can.

Here, it’s important to put the topic in perspective. Think, “How much of an impact will this have on us or between them and myself in a day’s time? In a week? In a month?” Not only do the husband and wife come to understand a household other than what they were raised with, they see ways to improve their presuppositions. For material with greater weight, we should continue in our convictions.

The second highest good anyone can do for their neighbor is to sustain them in the truth once it’s been found. The first highest is to encourage them to seek the truth. By definition, truth is singular, so the finish line of the pursuit will be the same for everyone. We may confuse opinions and preferences for our truth, but “our truth” is an oxymoron. Truth has been, is, and will be the same for everyone everywhere.

Whether the discussion is as broad as religion or human rights or as specific as family affairs or romantic relationships, we should enter a conversation knowing we have a lot to learn and remembering that the other person has their lifetime’s worth of thoughts and beliefs. But in all these, we should care about the other person enough to not drop the issue.

When you are utterly convinced that you are correct, it is the most loving thing to want someone to know the truth instead of letting them continue in what you believe to be wrong.

With regard to religion, if you believe someone is going to hell, you will want to do what you can to reverse their path. In the topic of human rights, neither side will want to settle for anything less than what they believe in. There is no peaceful agreement to disagree for a pro-lifer who recognizes the humanity of babies being killed. An ally of the LGBTQ community will not be content to simply end the conversation until there is no longer unfair discrimination of that community. If you think a relative is making choices that negatively affect the family, you want to amend that. For romantic relationships, someone so emotionally invested can’t always see the red flags in a partner, so you love the person by identifying the danger you see there.

These conversations will not look like a public debate with each side trying to win points. In the attempt to arrive at an applicable truth, the arguments may get heated due to emotions and human nature, but there must be an atmosphere of genuine love, respect, and concern for one another. These conversations, the issues that matter, are ones you don’t want to drop just to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

Knowing you have a lot to learn and a lot to offer; guide and be guided towards what is true.

Scot Bellavia

– Scot Bellavia