Disagreeing Well: And Why It Matters Deeply

By Gordon T. Smith

Gordon T. Smith wrote “How to disagree…graciously” for Nov/Dec Faith Today

A number of months ago I was approached by the folks at Faith Today with the question: would I do a piece for the magazine on how we manage our differences?

My first thought was:  “Sure — I’ll do this.  I should welcome an opportunity to write for this Canadian Christian magazine . . . on whatever the topic.”

But then when I actually looked at my computer screen and began to write, I realized that this topic matters to me, and it matters to me deeply.

And it seemed that as I wrote my fingers flew across the keyboard. Sure, there was editorial revision work to do. Certainly. But I was amazed at how just below the surface of my consciousness I had been thinking about this — mulling it over. And now I had a chance to put something in writing.

And what this does is always help us clarify our own thinking, of course. Without doubt, I was soon coming at this autobiographically — that is, not merely by asking how I feel about this matter, or how I have experienced the issue, but how do I want to approach the differences — the substantial differences — I will have with my sisters and brothers in Christ.

So, the essay was written as much to myself — a benchmark statement to me, Gordon: this is the kind of person I want to be when it comes to disagreements with others, especially within Christian community.

Like most who will read the piece, I have my opinions — and I have come by these views honestly. I have thought through the biblical, theological, ethical and spiritual implications of what I hold to be true and important. I hope others experience me as a man of conviction. But more, I also want to be humble and generous in these convictions.

I want them to experience my gracious response to their views and their disagreements with my views. And if this essay can help me do that better, it was worth the time and effort.  And if it can help others as well, so much the better.

Gordon T. Smith is president of of Ambrose University (Calgary). He wrote the cover story “How to disagree…graciously” for the Nov/Dec issue of Faith Today.

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