Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

standaloneSome of my recent posts have generated concerns that I’m getting “too political” on this blog, that my criticism of talk radio is an attack on the political views of those who listen to talk radio.  Not so.  As I said in a subsequent comment, “the vitriol doesn’t only come from one side. You can balance the ranting and raving of talk radio with some of the smug, holier-than-thou comments that come from the liberal elite.”  My concern here is not with politics, but with the level and tone of our public discourse.  We don’t seem to be able to talk to each other these days without yelling at each other. 

And so I was pleased to see this good example, forwarded by a reader.  Chuck Colson was asked by a young mother shortly before the start of the new school year how she could help her children understand that she does not support the President’s policies.  I’ll let you read the question and Chuck’s answer for yourself, but please notice how he turns down the intensity of the question, how he moves from generalities to specifics, and how he helps this woman voice her real concerns without disrespecting the office of the president.   While Colson’s own views are conservative and Christian, I think he sets an example here the whole country could learn from.

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My question relates to parenting Christian children who attend public schools. Specifically, I want to know how to help my children understand that I do not support the current President’s policies and values, as many of them are not biblical. I am furthermore concerned about his September 8th address to a captive public school audience. What kind of conversation do I have with them if they are in attendance at school the day that so much solitary focus is given to the President’s agenda?  —Jennifer Pixley

From Chuck Colson:

Good question, Jennifer. I have two words for you: honesty and respect. First, you need to be honest with your kids about your opinions of some of the President’s policies. But I would recommend that you don’t paint with broad strokes. Be specific. Tell them which policies you disagree with, and why.

For example, you may want to tell them why you don’t support the president’s policies on abortion, because we know that every child—even in the womb—is precious to God and created in His image.

But respect is also important. You may wisely criticize the policy, but it does no good to disparage the man who is the elected leader of our country. In fact, encourage your kids to pray for the President (as I do every day)—that he would be filled with God’s wisdom. It’s the right thing to do, and it will show your children that even though you disagree with (perhaps many of) his policies, as a good citizen, you respect the office of the President.

By the way, if the President talks to the students about the importance of education—as the White House says he will—it could be very positive. But whatever he says, use this as a teaching opportunity to discuss the President’s speech with your kids. Tell them the things you approve of or things that you don’t approve of. You need to be very balanced with them.

Chuck Colson

7 thoughts on “Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

  1. We as a people have lost common respect for each other. Over this past week we have seen repeated examples of lack of respect
    1. MTV video awards
    2. US Open tennis match with Ms. Williams’ foot fault
    as well as numerous examples on the part of numerous politicians etc.

    Perhaps as Colson says, we need to pray for each other, and we also need to listen to each other, and to talk TO each other not AT each other.

    Primarily for most of us we need to remember that God gave us 2 ears and one mouth and that we need to use them in that percentage (listen twice as much as we talk)

    Thanks for posting

  2. Today (9/15/09) two major internet news sites have articles and/or surveys about the loss of civility in our society. We had eight years of Americans and others being rude to our President (from verbal lambasts to throwing shoes); we have sports and entertainment celebrities being profane in public venues; we have politicians calling names from “stupid” to “jackass.” If someone disagrees with the current President, he or she is labeled “racist.” There is no such thing as being able to express one’s opinion without being negatively labeled by whomever has a differing opinion. No wonder that 90% of today’s respondents to CNN’s poll say, “Yes, society in general is less civil.”

    My general philosophy is to keep my opinion about most topics to myself. Not only do I need to listen twice as much as I speak, I need to ask for wisdom from above before I speak and run the risk of offending my Christian brother or sister.

  3. I have tried really hard to achieve, at a minimum, civility and preferably courtesy & respect, when disagreeing with another’s point of view, and I’d like to think I might be accorded at least civility. That’s why I can seldom be found listening to talk radio or TV, since they both seem primarily to be for folks who really want to “sound off” as opposed to engaging in a thoughtful dialogue. Often I do feel like a true dinosaur these days for many reasons, but when I get my foot in my mouth I try not to wiggle it a lot! The days of courteous public discourse do seem to be becoming a thing of the past, and how I do regret it! Many years ago I represented a group before a number of General Assembly committees, and spent many January & Feb. days in the Capitol; there were often heated, very controversial issues being addressed, but one rarely felt disrespected or “dissed” by the way issues were discussed. Somehow, we took both positions apart, inspected arguments, responded as possible, and found a workable compromise with which both sides could exist without losing respect for each other. Would that we could today!!!

  4. Good post, Dr. Jim! And, again, um, “welcome to Richmond!”, ha, ha! ;> Seriously, I am truly glad you are here! May God bless you and your family and ministry!

  5. Following up on your admonition in Sunday’s sermon to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus”, it occurred to me that when engaging in political discourse, we could similarly imagine Jesus as present and part of the conversation. I dare say the rhetoric might drasticallly change in proportion to our success in feeling His presence.

  6. Liz left off the recent remarks by the distinguished Senator from SC. Where did this all begin? Was it in the garden? Has our society become so decadent that we no longer recognize disrespectful behavior for what it is. Prayer is certainly a great start and then there needs to be a major society behavioral change.
    HOO-RAH Pastor Jim for a great post — the topic probably needs more discussion. Christ has given us the answer to all of this — we just need to stop and listen for his still small voice of love.

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