Do we have rules of engagement for civil discourse and conversation where we disagree, sometimes passionately? My social media feeds, television screen (whether Fox, CNN, MSNBC or ESPN) and even conversations at parties, church and ball fields often turn into places where the rules are unproductive at best, unhealthy at worst.

Dallas Willard and Gary Black, Jr. write, “Peace eliminates hostile relationships that hinder productivity and waste human talent and energy and enables helpfulness to dominate our intentions and interactions (2014).” It seems to me that we have a lot of wasted human talent and energy that is going towards hostility and anger, not towards any type of peaceful and productive work. Do not get me wrong, I don’t think peace means things are not often contentious, but rather it serves as a foundation to eliminate hostility.

With that as my backdrop, I wonder if what we lack are rules of engagement for productive, helpful and spirited interactions that address issues without causing deep and hurtful divides.

  • Conversation should not have conversion as its goal
  • Listen to what is said, not for a chance to speak
  • Pray with one another, not for the other to change
  • Unity does not depend on uniformity
  • Find joy in learning
  • No matter how heated the discussion gets, remember that you have to shake hands at the end
  • Compromise is not always a bad thing
  • Debate should show us our blind spots
  • Love your neighbor
  • Treat your neighbor as you want them to treat you
  • Being loudest doesn’t mean you win
  • Winning shouldn’t be the goal
  • Be kind!

From my faith background, I see Jesus always standing beside the oppressed, loving the hurting, and offering hope. Perhaps when we are willing to walk in the shoes of another we can begin to embrace a similar compassion.



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