I am very thankful for this year. This year has given me an opportunity to experience the receiving end of something similar to ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ from other Christians – although in my case it was ‘Love the believer, hate the creed.’ I think I now have the authority to say that these things are often not executed well. It’s a tricky balancing act. It’s so much easier just to pick one half of the statement to overemphasize or exclude. I don’t think this is an appropriate forum for me to share specifics about my situation, but here are some “enemies” to disagreeing with what someone stands for while demonstrating love for them:
- Ignorance. Not getting to know someone’s identity is the #1 sign that you don’t care about them. Knowing who they are and the true challenges, beliefs and differences associated with their lifestyle is not capitulating to what you disagree with, but strengthening your ability to love them and engage their differences.
- Fearing truth. You’ll need to make your disagreement known. Maybe it’s a wedding you can’t attend, or an employee you must dismiss. Whatever you do, be truthful. I had a conversation where someone refused to name exactly what it is they were doing. They hid behind euphemisms, tried changing the topic, pointing out that other people do it, and even flat out denied it was happening. This shouldn’t be the case; it makes you look ashamed of your position. It makes you seem like you care more about saving face than the person in front of you. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth being honest about.
- Fear biting. Someone you disagree with is more likely to be inclined to feel that you are working against them by default, and that calls for delicacy and tact, not words and actions that seem fearful. Be very careful how you portray their position, and the sorts of restrictions you place on them. Confront only the things that must be confronted. Don’t discipline someone more than absolutely necessary. It is much better to be minimalist in your reactions than overbearing.
- Secrecy. Nothing says ‘We’re up to no good’ like secrecy. Don’t ask, don’t tell policies leave the person you’re interacting with living in perpetual fear rather than feeling your love. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I tell the wrong people? What if he/she finds out? What will they do to me? What are they planning behind the scenes for me? Tell everyone, have an official story and make it clear you expect everyone to play nice. Involve the person in any discussions that will impact them.
- Unnaturalness. Hopefully this comes without effort, but this person you (hopefully) love should be included and provided for in the same way that you would for someone that you agree with. Include them in everything that you can, take a polite interest in everything, even if it touches on things you disagree with. If anything, they might be able to use an additional touch of kindness!
- No support. There should always be support for the change you want to see, and it should be clearly (though not constantly!) communicated, even if that person will never take you up on your offer. If you think the other person should not be doing X or believing X, you have a duty to be ready to help. They might not change, but they should know that if they did you’d be there in the trenches with them!
My situation made for a tough year, but I am glad I had the experience. In spite of the difficulties, it is worth holding on to the fact that some things are true, and some are not; some things are good, and some are not; and people can freely choose to identify themselves with any of these things. It is worth believing that we ought to love everyone but not agree with everyone. I certainly hope that all with whom I disagree will still find themselves assured of my love.