Let’s agree - it’s ok to disagree
A fight between two cats became a lesson about human relationships.
Cats and conflict
Our family has two young cats. They are very, very cute. They came to live with us when they were only little kittens. They are brother and sister, and they were orphaned when their mother was tragically mauled to death by a dog only hours after giving birth. Bit sad, really.
These cats (Jed and Abby), have been through a lot together. They’re really close, and really cute.
One thing that amazes me is seeing how these two cats live together. They spend hours grooming each other, cleaning behind each other’s ears and chins, and in other places you’d never lick if you were a human. They snuggle up with each other and keep each other warm and cosy.
But recently I noticed something really unfortunate about our cats. They fought over food. My happy little feline family was disturbed by a competition over a nice piece of raw chicken.
Abby growled at Jed. Jed retreated. Abby growled. Jed prowled. Abby growled. Jed retreated. When I saw this cat conflict, it immediately made me wonder if they were really related to each other at all. No true sister would treat her brother like that, I thought. These guys can’t be friends.
And then I realised that my feline logic was all a bit flawed.
Friends sometimes fight
Just because two humans fight with each other, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love one another. Just because they have conflict it doesn’t mean they don’t care for each other.
This can be really important to remember when we inevitably have arguments with each other.
We know how much we like it when there’s harmony and pleasantness and all those sweet things. But the reality is that just because friends fight it doesn’t mean they stop being friends. Just because your ‘bestie’ briefly becomes a ‘beastie’, it doesn’t mean you’ve moved from friends to foes.
It's ok for parents to disagree
The same is true of your parents. From time to time my wife Mandy and I have disagreements. Sometimes they are little. Sometimes they are a bit bigger. We don’t growl or hiss at each other like cats (usually) but there have been times when I’ve said and done things to Mandy that have really hurt her.
Apart from my regret at acting like a selfish idiot, I often wonder what my four kids think about the conflicts that happen from time to time between me and their mum.
Sometimes I wish my kids never heard the conflict between their parents.
But usually after the disagreements, I remind Mandy that it’s healthy for the kids to see their parents disagree over things, and to see that even though we have conflict, we still love each other and remain committed to each other.
And I also tell this to my kids.
How do you feel when your parents fight? Does it make you feel insecure? Does it make you feel upset?
These are natural reactions for kids when their parents fight. But it’s not always worth getting too stressed about it.
Conflict is normal
You see, it’s important to realise that conflict is a natural, and often healthy, part of relationships, whether it’s between your parents or between you and your friends. Conflict should never be abusive or violent. That is wrong… very wrong. But it’s OK for people to disagree with each other from time to time.
In a strange way, it’s actually evidence of a healthy relationship, not a sign that the marriage or friendship is failing.
Wen we try to avoid conflict, we can actually end up not telling the truth. Sometimes telling people things they need to hear can be uncomfortable and even painful, but it’s the right thing to say it, even if it’s hard to say.
Speak the truth in love
What all of this needs is love. Love will make us say the difficult things. And love will help us say it in a way that is patient and kind.
That’s what God means when he says in Ephesians chapter four, verse 15, when he talks about “speaking the truth in love”. It’s about having the godly conflict that comes from speaking the awkward and tricky truth, but having that conflict in a way that is loving and kind.
Ruth Graham, the late wife of Billy Graham, last century’s most famous evangelist, once said "I'm certainly glad my husband and I are not exactly alike; if that were the case, one of us wouldn't be necessary."
She also said “a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
And that’s exactly what God says in Ephesians chapter four verse 32, when he says that we should “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
So whether it’s a friendship or a marriage, we should keep forgiveness at the heart of our relationships.
Conflict is normal and healthy. Even my cute little cats fight. It’s not always nice to watch, but it’s good for the relationship… whether it’s friends, families, or even felines.