Every relationship, if pursued long enough, will encounter conflict at some point. Disagreements over dating, politics or whose turn it is to vacuum the living room all require resolution. But there are some discussions that never quite come to an end; an agreement just can’t be reached. These “agree to disagree” situations are touchy. If handled incorrectly, they could mean the end of a friendship, yet sometimes, ending the friendship is exactly what needs to happen. How do you know what to do?
Rarely do we find a friend with whom we agree on every topic under the sky. Navigating a conflict of opinions is difficult, but not impossible. We need to ask ourselves three questions when faced with conflicts of this nature.
1. Is this a matter of preference or a sin issue?
Arguments between friends can arise about anything. But is everything worth a fight? We need to ask ourselves if the issue in question is really a hill on which we want to die—symbolically speaking, of course.
Matters of preference, such as division of roommate duties, an annoying boyfriend or how loud your roommate’s music plays every night, should be approached with an understanding spirit. We have to decide if these are things we could live with to maintain the friendship, given their surface-level nature.
But issues of sin—a Christian friend decides to sleep with her boyfriend, steals something or asks you to lie about something she did—must be approached in a different fashion. These must also be discussed with compassion and understanding. But the discussion of sin centers on God’s truth: Does God say this is wrong? If so, where and why? Sin issues must be held against God’s objective standard. Issues of preference are subjective, and those may be worth letting go.
2. Do I want this friendship or do I want to be right?
No one likes to get the short end of the stick in an argument. It wounds our pride. But being right can mean the end of a friendship that may otherwise have been preserved.
Choosing humility is difficult, and it often requires that we sacrifice our own “justice” to save the relationship. But we can trust that God is our justifier and our defense, and that if we are indeed “right,” He will make that clear in due time!
When it comes to sin issues, we must always stand on God’s truth. But we must also relay that truth in an attitude of love. God never intended His law to be used as a club, bludgeoning people with His truth at the expense of His mercy. Mercy and truth walk hand in hand. It is God’s compassion that draws us to repentance, and we need to keep that in mind during conflict. That said, even the most loving truth can be rejected when a heart is hard toward God.
3. Do I need to let go of this relationship?
Some friendships aren’t meant for forever. There are some conflicts from which a relationship cannot recover, and some people who don’t want to deal with the “agree to disagree” life. This can be hard to accept, especially if you’ve made every effort to speak your truth with compassion.
If your friend is pulling away because of your differences, certainly make an effort at reconciliation. But if she continues to reject your attempts, it may be time to let go of the relationship (read more about breaking up with your best friend).
Conflict is never a pleasant experience, but it always gives us wisdom and strength for future relationships—even marriage! By navigating disagreement with compassion, you win in two ways: either preserving a friendship or equipping yourself for a future of friendships built on mutual respect.