This is a moment in history where it is necessary to speak up loudly and clearly about what is happening in our world. People will disagree with you. It should be expected. Here are three ways that I have learned to handle dissenting opinions, while avoiding falling into the trap of personal attacks.
1. Remain humble: James 4:6 teaches us “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” Humility shouldn’t be viewed as weakness or low self-esteem. But rather humility is a strength given by God to understand who we are, and what we have been called to do. Jesus was able to wash His disciples feet because He knew who He was. Jesus even challenged Peter in that context, when Peter expressed a dissenting opinion, “You will never wash my feet.” But Jesus responded with the strength of humility, “Unless I wash your feet, you have no place with me.” (John 13: 1-9)
2. Learn as much as possible: If you listen carefully to dissenting opinions, you will learn something. Criticism can serve as the greatest source of coaching. Through seeking to understand what is being said, insight can be gained into how what you are doing as a leader is impacting others. You can also gain insight into the life of the person who is the source of the dissent and by doing so become better equipped to serve them. As Proverbs 1:5 instructs us, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning…”
3. Look for solutions: It is a fool’s game to attempt to please everyone. As a leader if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Often though, solutions come from listening and learning from the voices that surround you. As a leader you are tasked with the mission of finding workable solutions. In order to do so you must have a clear understanding of the problems, seek to gather as much information as possible, and then make a decision and live with the consequences. There will always be “Monday morning quarterbacks” who will seek to second guess choices made. But at the end of the day, God has called us to lead with clarity and conviction. So look for the solution, make the decision and then stick by that decision.
Listen to the gifts of those God has surrounded you with. Understand that every person He brings into your life serves a purpose. Do not fear dissenting opinions, but welcome them. But you are under no obligation to tolerate abuse, racism, rude, or ignorant rhetoric and behavior. There is a difference between honest inquiry and just plain hatred being shared for evil intent.
Samuel R. Chand observes,
“Healthy teams foster the perspective that failure isn’t a tragedy and conflict isn’t the end of the world. Great leaders welcome dissenting opinions, as long as they are offered in good will and with an eye toward a solution. These teams are willing to take great risks and even to fail miserably because they’ve gotten over the notion that failure is a personal flaw. That believe God is worthy of noble efforts, and they trust that God smiles on them as they attempt great things for him”
May we all seek to continue attempting great things for God, and see all the voices around us as resources to that end.