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June 30, 2015
Goodness Matters
To Disagree without Being Disagreeable
by Vickey Pahnke Taylor

It was Marvin J. Ashton who said, “How important it is to know how to disagree without being disagreeable.” It was many years ago when I heard him teach this brilliant concept.

We live in a pretty contentious world. People fan the flames of argument and conflict — sometimes subconsciously, but often purposely. Social media rages with controversial posts and tweets. Some of them are true, many aren’t, and a great number have a fleck of truth, but are twisted or turned to make a point — one to stir the pot.

I love Facebook, to tell you the truth, but I am careful about whose posts I continue to allow in my feed. There is enough strife and there are enough problems in this world without creating more. Sheesh!

Satan loves it, don’t you think? To keep us preoccupied with disagreement and upset, he can keep us from the peace we say we’re seeking. That ugly, dark stirring of conflict disallows the Holy Spirit from being with us. The time we could be using in positive, unifying ways is wasted on argument. 

Would it not be wonderful if we sought for what was right, and not who was right? If we laid aside our pride, and were open to learning more so that we aren’t so pulled in by the arguing stretch of taffy that keeps some people so high-strung?

There are two scriptures that pop into my mind when I come across a mean-spirited comment in the news or social media of any sort. I admit, it’s a little harder when someone I know and care about is standing right in front of me, but still — when I remember — I am much less prone to get sucked into some silly debate:

3 Nephi 11:29 — “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”

Proverbs 13:10 — “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”

President Ezra Taft Benson counseled that contention is one of the forms of pride. This “form of pride” tears apart couples, families, and rages throughout the world.

Sometimes, I wish I could be a little girl again, running along the beach in Kauai with my mom and dad, picking fresh tropical fruit from our very own yard, living in a very small and loving community of folks who were all friends. The kind of friends who would listen with love, and think before speaking.

And let me tell you, if I were to speak disagreeably to my parents, there would be consequences! I’d best keep my disagreeing to myself — until I figured out that they were right, anyway. And they were.

Maybe those days are long past, and we can only work at finding the goodness and peace we yearn for by practicing carefully and wholly in our homes. That would mean we need to keep it in our mind always, and in our heart clearly and powerfully.  Then, we would be more prone to acting upon these words from Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “Letting off steam produces more heat than light.”  That one makes me smile!

I remember hearing, “Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss things. Great minds discuss ideas.” Eleanor Roosevelt, thank you for these wise words! We can add to that, or interpret that however it best speaks to us. It’s sure to allow us to work at being great-minded, don’t you think? At letting peace begin with us? With biting the tongue instead of snapping back with negativity?

Yes, in a world of confusion and contention, we can be more agreeable, at the least, I believe. And that’s a good thing. And goodness matters!

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