“For Bowen[i], the goal is not agreement.” This statement made me sit up and take notice. While I believe this, and wrote my doctoral paper from the perspective that unity does not mean unanimity, hearing it so simply stated felt like a blast of cold water on a hot day. It got my attention.

Today on my walk up a fairly steep hill in Kerrville, TX, with the humidity so high it felt like struggling through a hot cloud and I would have welcome an actual blast of cold water, I refused to look at my Fitbit to see how many steps I had traversed already. I thought back to an exchange with my nephew Ben when I first got my tracking device. I made some comment about having walked 10,000 steps and it was around 4 miles. He said for him to get in 10,000 steps meant going way more miles than that. I replied, of course, your legs are about twice the length of mine! I imagined walking with Ben where I would have to walk almost two steps for every one of his. It was a humorous picture in my mind.

When Jeff and I used to stroll together, not a fitness walk, but a companionable gait, we would try to get into a rhythm that worked with each other especially if we were also holding hands. Otherwise, it felt awkward. Sometimes it seemed in our lives we kept wanting to try to make ourselves, or the other, fit into a pattern or rhythm that agreed with each other. For us, agreement was not an easy state. We were both of such strong wills that to create agreement often meant that one of us really had to remain silent, or simply go along with the other.

While there are moments when this can be important, after all only one person at a time can drive a car, I have often felt somewhat guilty that I could not simply be quiet and go along. After all, isn’t that what love means in our world? Well no, it does not mean that. Love means being able to hear where the other is, and when there is not agreement, sitting with the differences. It does not mean pretending to agree.  It means allowing the other to think differently while not looking down at them for it.

What would our world be like if we could truly disagree but continue to live together in the unity of the Spirit with peace?

Ephesians 4:2-3
Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.


[i] The Bowen referred to is Murray Bowen, the psychiatrist who developed Family Systems Theory. I have been engaged in studying and learning the concepts of this theory for nearly ten years now, with Roberta Gilbert, Kathleen Cauley, and Kenton Derstine.