Given the current political climate, it seems that everyone has a candidate or issue about which they are unwilling to bend. I see it in the candidate’s debates, in Senate floor speeches, and even in casual conversation. This “my way or the highway” approach has me a little perplexed. What ever happened to compromise?
a: settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions
b: something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things
or as my friend Julie says, “Sometimes we need to look at a compromise as both sides winning instead of a lose-lose situation.”
Compromise is one of the first things we teach our children when they are playing with their friends. Johnny wants to play with the truck, but so does Sally. We might say, “Let Johnny play with it for 15 minutes, then Sally can play with it.” Or we might try to find a way for them to play with the truck together (cooperative play). Why for goodness’ sake can’t we apply this same principle to politics and social issues?
But Teressa, you say, there are some issues I am not willing to compromise. I get that. It might be abortion, gay rights, the death penalty, or whatever. Sometimes our issues of personal morality conflict with someone else’s issues of personal morality. Obviously we can’t dictate another person’s morality, so then what?
This is where, I believe, the principle of “agree to disagree” comes in to play. According to Wikipedia, John Wesley was the first person to put the phrase “agree to disagree” in print. He used it in reference to his friend, George Whitefield. Wesley and Whitefield both helped found the Methodist church, Although they had differing views on salvation, they were still very good friends. In a letter to his brother Charles, after Whitefield’s death, John Wesley said:
If you agree with me, well: if not, we can, as Mr. Whitefield used to say, agree to disagree.
Or again, from my very astute friend, Julie:
By agreeing to disagree you have reached a compromise of sorts. You have come to an understanding of where someone else stands and respect them enough to not continue to try and change their minds.
To our politicians, I suggest that “agree to disagree” may be used temporarily in the event of an impasse. Call it a timeout while both sides cool down. Discussion on the topic can then be resumed at a future date. “Agree to disagree” is not a quick-fix solution, by any means, and it is hard to be patient when we are trying to change injustice, but in a civilized society, it can be a useful tool for eventual change.
What do you think? Are you willing to agree to disagree? Let me know in the comments.