An Argument I’m Willing to Take On

“Are you going to break up with me next?” she cried in frustration and anger. That anger should have been directed completely at me but it was also pointed at God.

I will never forget the look on my sister’s face when I told her I had broken up with my boyfriend. Disbelief mixed with pain and anger flashed in her eyes. I had caused that. Four years older than me, she was no longer in high school but we were in the same circles and shared a lot of friends. We shared a lot in common­—except my faith in Jesus. There were other reasons this guy and I parting ways but my sister got around to asking me if it was because he didn’t share my faith and I admitted that was partly it.

It always came back to this with us. I pushed (hard). She pushed back (harder). Disagreeing never accomplished anything except for driving a wedge between two people who couldn’t see the world the same way. I thought I could argue her into believing. I think she would have stopped herself from believing just to spite me … and she would have been right.

I cringe when I think back to the headstrong and arrogant youth that saw the world one way and expected to debate others into the Kingdom of God. I wish I could change this part of my history but what I can do is learn from it. Unfortunately, one thing I’ve learned is the fear of disagreeing altogether.

I spent so many years mending the damage from my ignorance and never wanting to harm another, especially in the name of the Jesus who never pushed His way into anyone’s life. I have taken the backseat of being a learner and I am more comfortable there.

I still have strong opinions. Just ask my small circle of friends close enough to hear my real political opinions. These are things I do not air publically. The thought of doing so recalls memories of that unkind girl and makes my heart beat faster than it should.

Enter social media and the fact that I am a writer in Christian circles—both of which these days means airing opinions and feelings, writing them out for all to see. I would say I picked the wrong vocation if I had actually picked it. Ask most writers and they’ll tell you it picked them, that they can’t help it. But that doesn’t negate the dread I feel about disagreement (especially about matters as deeply personal as faith and the way we express it).

I have rarely seen minds change through these kinds of disagreements held in person. I’ve seen even fewer people who can challenge total strangers online in a way that is filled with love and grace. It can happen but it definitely isn’t the norm. So I would just rather stay away from disagreements. I see social media as a place to connect with my friends and family, to my readers. But when debates start occurring, I tend to check out altogether. I know this isn’t the best solution either. I don’t believe my silence makes me complacent or complicit. But there are times that call for speaking up and I am too afraid.

Last week I posted something about my daily life in passing and then agonized over taking it down. I mentioned yoga, which has been a part of my life for many years. It is a part of my life I talk about with certain groups and not with others. I don’t want to stir the pot, so to speak, so I just lean towards avoidance. Not thinking too much about it I posted a picture of my mat, just talking about my morning. But I knew it could come anyway: those passive-aggressive mentions of yoga’s pagan roots. I could hit back with the beautiful Holy Yoga movement that I have been influenced by, talk about the online group I am in right now that is going through a book on worshipping God with all our breath, body, and spirit and how I am seeing women healed in this journey. But I won’t because I don’t believe in using social media this way. But I also don’t believe in hiding who I am and how the Lord has moved in my life just to avoid debate. So I left the post up.

My sister who had her healthy share of disagreements with me (and who, unlike me, loves to stir things up) has taught me to look for balance. She follows Jesus now but her worship doesn’t look just like mine. And it doesn’t have to. We love each other and have found a safe space to support each other and know that doesn’t look like agreeing all the time.

I may not be engaging in any online debates anytime soon but I am trying not to shrink back from transparency out of fear anymore. Maybe disagreeing doesn’t have to look like arrogance and pointing fingers. Maybe disagreeing can look like learning from each other and seeing that differences make us unique and all the more beautiful in a diverse world. I think our differences can start a dialogue instead … and that’s an argument I’m willing to take on.

Nicole T. Walters
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3 thoughts on “An Argument I’m Willing to Take On

  1. I appreciate what you shared; online disagreements often remain and result in just that: a disagreement. I’ve tended to avoid them, too. It hardly leads to a productive result, it seems.
    I’ve been coaching team policy debate for high schoolers for a few years now, and one of the most common responses I receive from parents who aren’t familiar with this activity is, “I should sign up my teen. They like to debate me!” What I’ve learned after a few years, though, is how much debate isn’t really about “debating”; yes, learning the mechanics of how to debate is part of it, but it’s really about finding common ground, which is entirely different. (I almost submitted an article discussing that in greater depth as opposed to the story yesterday of the friendship with my neighbor; in retrospect, maybe I should have.) But, it’s something to think about. Social media and wide internet accessibility have opened new avenues of communication (and coping) skills we need to process. 🙂

  2. I’m still learning how to speak up when I disagree, and to do it with confidence but not arrogance. (Usually when I disagree my thought kind of trails off with a mumbled “well, that’s sort of what I think anyway”.) Thankfully I’ve cultivated a group of friends over the years where we are learning how to explore our differences. The best compliment I got from someone recently was “You’re really smart, but you never make me feel dumb.” That’s what I want, to be able to disagree with people in a way that still leaves them feeling valued.

  3. I desperately need to hear words that stir me up and challenge my thinking. It’s so easy after “a certain age” to be surrounded by our squad of clones and to stand in our circle nodding at each other as we sing the same old tune in unison. Thank you for affirming today that we can disagree in a spirit of peace.

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