When people disagree well, I take notice. Perhaps it’s because when I have failed to do so, it felt devastating. Once I notice that my words aren’t landing charitably, or that the other person doesn’t feel understood, I know I’ve lost something very important in conversation.

The opportunity to demonstrate healthy disagreement—regardless of if minds are changed or consensus is reached—reflects some of the beautiful paradoxes of Christianity. Ineffective dialogue can ruin this opportunity, and too often it takes people far from the Christian mission of speaking the truth in love.

I am slowly becoming aware of the spiritual, social, and psychological dynamics of conversations, and it has taken sensitive training and correction. Now, I find myself in the precarious role of teaching others what it means to navigate tense conversations… at age 12.

As a 7th-grade science teacher at a Christian school, I didn’t necessarily expect this would be part of my job. Then, as we began exploring life science, genetics, and ethics—hard-hitting topics that even adults disagree on—the students began piping up with questions of their own.

Miss Rollins, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful and is watching over us even when we were just a cell or two, then how come some people are born with disorders?

Welp. Faced with this opportunity I felt several emotions at once; my head went off like a panel of Inside Out characters. I had just told them about how God watches over us since our conception. And as soon as the student finished asking his question, hands shot up across the room—hands from kids who didn’t always participate in our discussion.

These conversations continued as ...

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