Pearls & Vodka

I Don’t Agree with You

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself getting sucked into a “tweet war” with Rosie O’Donnell.

Yes, that Rosie O’Donnell.

I’ve noticed over the past year that the woman who used to host a show that was full of happiness and joy is no longer the same person. The woman who gave money and gifts to those in need has become full of hate and vitriol on her social media accounts. And honestly, I use to find it sad. As the months have gone on and her posts are consistently negative, downtrodden, accusatory, inflammatory and much more; I’ve just grown tired of her.

And yes, it is entirely in my ability to “unfollow” her and remove her from my newsfeed.

But I’m not really interested in doing that, at least not yet.

I like to read the opinions of others and learn more about their beliefs. I enjoy being challenged in my own. Respectfully of course, and I guess that’s where Sunday derailed for me.

@Rosie tweeted an accusatory remark about a friend of mine on Twitter. It was her opinion, and she is entitled to that. It was 100% false, and I know that because of my personal relationship with the person she was attacking.

You see, I am THAT person.

I don’t say this for applause, or accolades, but I believe in the type of friendship that even if I disagree with you, I will defend you at all costs.

My friend Terri shared a quote on Facebook yesterday, and it so beautifully depicts “my tribe,” “The best kind of friendships are fierce lady friendships where you aggressively believe in each other, defend each other, and think the other deserves the world.”

And Sunday afternoon, @Rosie overstepped that boundary for me in a friendship I treasure deeply.

She accused my friend of “lying for a liar w/ glee in ur eyes.” She went on to say “think of ur kids” to my friend. And sure, I have a front row seat to my friend’s life, a position that many people believe that they share because she is in the public eye, but the reality is, they don’t know her at all. I “tweeted” back to @Rosie, “…Just bc you disagree doesn’t mean she’s a liar!” And, as has become common practice for her, of course, she couldn’t stop there. She went on to say my friend “is the worst.” And of course, because of who I am, I tweeted back by saying, “…I love that we live in a country where we are free to disagree.”

For what it’s worth, I did try to be the bigger person, and at the end of my last tweet I said, “God bless you and your family.”

Of course, after the exchange on Twitter, there were quite a few folks who continued to “attack” me with their tweets. One lady called me “obtuse.” And just for those of you who are curious, she wasn’t calling me an angle in geometry.

So why do I share this story with you?

It’s most definitely not to draw attention to the type of friend I am or try to be. But it’s to make a point that I believe wholeheartedly; that we have lost the “art of disagreeing” in our country.

I won’t get into the semantics of how I loathe Twitter feuds because you have to shorten words to fit the 144-character limit. For someone who loves to write, and albeit, sometimes long-winded, I hate having to change words like “to,” to 2.

Where I think we have gotten lost as a nation, and probably even more than that, as a human race, is that we accuse without proof because we don’t like someone. And we decide we don’t like people without even knowing them. We belittle and degrade others simply because we don’t agree with them. We always assume the worst intent. We have stopped trying to look at things from anyone’s point of view but our own. We take the media at their word and let their headlines categorize people and situations without even searching out the truth for ourselves.

Back in 2012, Susan Heitler, a Ph.D. with Psychology Today wrote an article called, “The Art of Disagreeing Agreeably.” The subtitle was, “how to disagree and say no in a way that augments goodwill.” She stated in this article, “Instead of polarizing into an I’m right, You’re wrong battle, they develop shared understandings that set a foundation for creating win-win solutions.” She explained a “Tripe A” formula in this article on how to disagree agreeably which included these ideas: agree, augment, add. Her point was to actually listen to someone’s point of view and pick out things you agree on; they are there when we really try to listen objectively and not with the intent to “win” an argument. Her next step was to augment, to basically take a part of the conversation that you do agree on and expand further on that train of thought to develop a comradery in the conversation, but also show the other person that you are listening and trying to understand. The final step was to remove subtracting words from conversations like “but.” She suggests using words like “and” or “at the same time.” By using those words that “add” to a conversation you remove the connotation that you are negating anything they said or that you might have agreed with, if you had heard them out. [1]

Perhaps if I were to sit down over a vodka tonic with @Rosie, we could have a more agreeable conversation than Twitter allows. I’m not entirely sure I believe that to be true, but perhaps…

Recently Bret Stephens, an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, wrote an article about a lecture he gave called, “The Dying Art of Disagreement.” Stephens points out in the lecture/article that “to say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong…these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.” He went on to explain we are at a time in history where we have rarely disagreed more as a nation than we do today. He pointed out something that I actually believe is a huge issue in our culture, “we judge one another morally depending on where we stand politically.” And how true that is. For the Conservative, they look at a Liberal and judge their moral standing by the fact that they are pro-choice and vice versa. We define someone’s entire belief system by what candidate they endorse. [2]

Stephens went on to say that he was encouraged by his professors at the University of Chicago, “to listen and understand; to question and disagree; to treat no proposition as sacred and no objection as impious; to be willing to entertain unpopular ideas and cultivate the habits of an open mind.”[2]

I think the encouragement he received there at the University could be a great lesson for our entire country; if not our total population.

That’s not to say we always have to back down from what we think is right or wrong, and just agree for agreement’s sake. That is to say, however, that we dig deeper than the Twitter conversation. We bring facts to the table. We understand well the thoughts and sentiments of the other party. We read deeper, listen more carefully, and watch much closer. We don’t rely on one news source, we read multiple ones on the same topic.

And we approach each, and every, conversation with “moral respect, giving him the intellectual benefit of the doubt, have sympathy for his motives and participate emphatically with his line of reasoning.” [2]

I also wonder, like Stephens said, how much our conversations would change if we allowed our minds to consider the possibility that we might be persuaded by what someone else has to say?

In 2016, Michael Ward wrote an article about George Watson who was a student who sat under the teaching of C.S. Lewis during his lectures at Oxford. Watson went on to work with Lewis at Cambridge, as well. Watson said this about C.S. Lewis, “he did not ask or expect me to share his convictions.” Watson remembered Lewis by saying, “He could always distinguish the man from the man’s opinion, and he knew the difference between an argument and a quarrel…His twin passions were people and arguments, but he did not often make the mistake of confusing them.” [3]

Can you even imagine in today’s society being able to separate a man from his opinions?

It has sadly become a foreign concept. And if you disagree, honestly, I’m not surprised; that’s what we do best now as a society, disagree.

Rajesh Shetty said,”The fundamental reason why disagreements are hard is because people tend to make it about them and not the issue at hand.” How true it is that I often find myself lost on the person and not their thoughts. He went on to introduce a concept that I’m still wrapping my head around what it would look like, “disagreeing with grace.” [4]

Going back to my Twitter conversation with @Rosie, I look back now and wonder did I struggle with her statements simply because I know my friend is not a liar, or because of who @Rosie is? Did I struggle more because she use to give off this persona of being such a nice person and friendly, and these tweets don’t seem to align with that ideology? Did I struggle more because she has such a public platform? And the truth is, I then lack the fortitude to separate who she is from what she thinks.

And the truth about me is, I am probably never going to get this one right, because being loyal, even to a fault at times, is just who I am. But I can assure you I’m going to try hard to do this right.

Shetty concluded his article by saying, “Remember, not all battles are worth fighting. They can’t get it right all the time and neither can you.” [4]

Perhaps that is the lesson for me in all of this, to pick and choose my battles more wisely and to exercise grace in the ones I do take on.

My friend Sarah Stewart Holland over at Pantsuit Politics recently said on one of their podcasts, “We are more comfortable with anger than simply being uncomfortable.” I have been mulling that over since I heard her say it, I even have it written on a notepad on my desk at work. We don’t agree on everything politically, but I think she’s on to something there. See, I can disagree gracefully! But I do believe that there is truth to that statement. We are so quick nowadays to get mad and disagree, than we are to actually listen and try to understand someone else’s point of view because it might make us uncomfortable. We are so dead-set that we are right, and it’s “our way or the highway” that we cling to our anger instead of genuinely hearing another point of view.

The saying goes, “What you permit is what you promote.

That being said, I want the readers out there to know that I am focused on promoting open conversations, grace-filled discussions and digging deep in the trenches together to make this nation a better place for the next generation, for little boys like my son.

I’ll take any chance I can get to honor our military and our law enforcement heroes and I truly believe finding a way to rediscover the art of disagreeing is a step in the right direction of doing that.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201201/the-art-disagreeing-agreeably

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/24/opinion/dying-art-of-disagreement.html

[3] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/cs-lewis-and-art-of-disagreement

[4] https://rajeshsetty.com/2013/02/07/the-art-of-graceful-disagreement/

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