When People Disagree with Me

In a new blog post this morning, author Donald Miller provides what he calls “Five Principles of Civil Dialogue” to help people when they have disagreements.

I’m still digesting these this morning… but I thought I’d throw them out to you all so we can contemplate together.  See what you think.  Here’s the short version:

1.  The truth is not MY truth, it’s just truth.

Miller says it’s important to remember that your ideas not not really YOUR ideas.  You got them from somewhere.  Chances are, you’re not the first person in the world to think the way you do.  And in many cases, we stumble on our ideas from other people, things we read, our experiences, etc.  The point:  Don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t agree with the way you think on a subject… they’re rejecting your idea, not you.  (I don’t think Miller is saying that there is no such thing as truth (at all)… I think he’s saying that we all take proprietary ownership of thinking that our way is the only or right way.  That’s something totally different.)

2.  Methodology is part of the message

Don’t be condescending or defensive when you have the conversation.  People see right through that.  And the response is rarely ever what you’re hoping for.

3.  Without a loving heart, I am like a clanging cymbal.

You have to genuinely care. Miller cites that the Bible says we talk with not just our tongues, but also with our hearts.  That’s true.  Don’t be the resounding gong.  It will get you nowhere.

4.  The other person has sovereignty.

I often tell my kids that you can change other people, you can only change yourself.  Don’t try to pressure or bully someone into your point of view.  It won’t work.  And when you walk away, realize that the other person still has the right to view your topic of your disagreement differently.  There are some great Biblical examples of people that didn’t see eye to eye, and separated. While that’s not the goal… sometimes it happens.

5.  I could be wrong.

When we enter these types of discussions with people that don’t agree with us, our goal is clear:  we usually want to win them over to our side of thinking.  But what if we’re wrong?  An important part of listening is… (wait for it)… listening.  Listen to the other person’s perspective.  Be open to their point of view.  Maybe it makes sense.  Maybe you didn’t have all the information, and what they tell you will make you reconsider your decision.  And perhaps you’ve been dead wrong the whole time.

I hate being wrong.  We all do.  But I’d much rather admit it early than to continue being wrong over a longer period of time in front of more and more people.  Because usually when I’m wrong, it becomes pretty obvious to those I’m trying to lead.

So… who do you have that disagrees with you today? How can you Biblically and civilly remedy the situation?

Maybe these 5 ideas starters will help.

Read more from Donald Miller here.



  • Steve Miller February 17, 2014 Reply

    The world’s way is to insist on being in the right, it gets tricky because this is part of God’s design for our lives. We were created to be in the right by virtue of being in right relationship with God. Being right was part of our identity because our identity was based off of being in proper relation to God.

    Ever since the fall sin has polluted our thinking. Sin has caused us to be separated from God, but it has not stopped us from feeling like we were created to be in the right, we just no longer have a right relationship as the basis for that attribute. The result is people’s sense of being right is no longer connected to God’s character it becomes attached to our own fallen character.

    One of the great joys of Christianity is we are freed from insisting we are always right. Jesus frees us from the tyranny of performance based acceptance. We are gifted righteousness, which means we are gifted being “in the right” in relation to God based off of Christ’s work not our own.

    Now every Christians’ efforts are to be focused not on insisting they are right, but persevering to be in Christ. True Christians are not shocked when they are wrong, they expect it. We must insist every disagreement is resolved with Jesus seen correctly and glorified in our attitudes and followed as our example.

    This attitude changes problem solving into an act of worship.

  • Gary Sweeten February 17, 2014 Reply

    After having tried to teach interpersonal communication, and conflict management in several nations and many parts of the US, let me applaud Mr. Miller. May I suggest a couple more keys to all relationships. 6. Every interpersonal communication event is “Cross Cultural” in that not two people come from the same culture, even siblings and family members. 7. The greatest cause of misunderstanding is not a disagreement over the answer but a lack of agreement over the question. 8. The single most important skill is listening not talking. Clarity about the issue, the question, the emotional importance, etc will make or break a disagreement. 7. What is “truth” is not necessarily “factual”. When my wife asks, “Does this dress make me look fat,” she does not want facts. 8. My perceptions are my reality. 9. The human brain is not much interested in facts but in survival. Disagreements are often perceived as threats requiring a “fight” or “flight” reaction. My reaction is to my perception not your reality.

    • Steve Miller February 17, 2014 Reply

      Applause for you as well Gary! Great stuff, I’m going to print your suggestions and keep it in my wallet as a cheat sheet.

    • James February 18, 2014 Reply

      Very well said! I like many of your comments. I’m so glad you entered #8, that perception is my reality.
      One of the down sides of our faith is we think we “all” speak the same language, or interpretation, or common beliefs or interpretations. The “truth” is we don’t speak or believe the same thing about “beliefs” when it comes to the Bible. Yes, there is are common core beliefs about Jesus, but the rest is up for interpretation and my perception. And even Jesus gets a second and third look from my perspective about who He is, was, and will be.
      I recently heard a very interesting comment made about perception and truth. This is a paraphrase but the comment went something like this. “We’d like to think that our understanding, interpretation of the Bible is THEE TRUTH, but in fact it is merely our accepting of someone else’s perception of the truth. And that perception, comes from someone else’s perception of THEE truth.”
      The process is simple yet difficult, read, study, pray, enter into discussion with all sides and then by the Holy Spirit draw your own conclusion. That takes courage and a risk because someone will disagree with your conclusions. But that’s okay because it just might sharpen and challenge me to look again, and again at what I thought was bolted down.
      Thank you for your comments, excellent.

      • Gary Sweeten February 18, 2014 Reply

        When I had to confront some of these cherished ideas and recognized that some of them made no biblical or analytical sense, I recognized my fallibility and moved in the direction of God’s sovereignty. One thing for sure, I am not sovereign or infallible.

        • James February 19, 2014 Reply

          Again you are absolutely right. We’re not infallible, or sovereign, but we are loved, unconditionally.

  • BART February 17, 2014 Reply

    What we are talking about is not truth, but opinion. You know what they say about opinions? Opinions are like armpits, everyone seems to have two of them and it is always the other guys that stink.

    • James February 18, 2014 Reply

      You might be right about opinion. But at the same time truth is just as much an opinion. The truth about the Universe etc. was thought to be such and so, until science proved that the Universe is ever expanding at over 2 Billion light years a second. How do I know that? I don’t I just accept this persons opinion as being possibly true.
      Just as there is evidence, from some, that civilization has been around at least 10,000 years. Some however don’t believe that, but believe YE (Young Earth philosophy) that the earth is not over 5,000 years old. Which is true? They are both opinions, but some hinge their whole Christian faith and reputation on one or the other. So opinion and truth are not as clear cut as an armpit, although I like the humor.
      And Opinion doesn’t require much research, or even commitment to what’s being offered. However, perception takes into consideration more than just a careless response. Perception takes into consideration my full spectrum of observation, yes opinion, research, experience and even faith.
      Thanks Bart, love the armpit

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