By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is It OK That I Disagree With That?

Friendship is a
Via Wikimedia Commons
I have asked that pointed but polite question, in so many words, to a few persons in the recent past. One was to a Sufi Muslim gentleman who with great assurance spoke about his beliefs. I politely made clear that I took exception to some of them, and then asked the magic question which separates dialogue from monologue: "Is it OK that I disagree?" I don't recall any responsive answer to the question.

Another case involved a vociferous advocate of the Occupy Wall St. movement and other left-leaning ideological shibboleths. Again, I don't recall more than a surprised pause to the "Is it OK to disagree?" query.

Still another case involved someone making strong and broad generalizations about the American political system. The question was met with the same reaction of surprise.

I have also had the same experience with some of my fellow Catholics (try it with liturgical matters if you wish to be daring!). There seems to be, among a wide range of people of strong political and/or religious views, a momentary reaction of surprise at the presentation of the pointed proposition that it may actually be OK for us to disagree.

Why is that? I think there may be several causes. One, not a few people with very strong views hold those views to fill the insecurity of weak personalities which lack the maturity to handle the complexities and ambiguities of life. Second, in some cases, the causes may actually include some kind of emotional or psychological problem that may even rise to the level of a personality disorder. Third, it may just be a simple matter of not putting oneself in the shoes of the other because we are so preoccupied with ourselves.

Dialogue is the goal, and any genuine friendship--which must be based on dialogue, not monologue--is possible only when all are free to disagree. Yes, it is indeed OK to disagree. If anyone is surprised or shocked by that pointed proposal, then they have yet to learn the meaning of conversation among friends and are missing out on the great gift of genuine friendship.

Many go through life with great ideological self-assurance on religious, political, and other matters. The best medicine for such ideological self-assurance is to listen to others, a listening that is worthwhile only if it is OK for others to disagree.

"[L]et every person(AH) be quick to hear,(AI) slow to speak,(AJ) slow to anger."

 James 1:19b (ESV).