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Civil discourse seems to be a dying art these days. It just means to have a non-violent, respectful discussion with someone about something on which you disagree. Maybe neither of you changes your mind by the end of it, but you had a polite discussion and you both learned.

Is it hard to have civil discourse? Well, yes and no. No, because when you disagree with someone, particularly on a moral issue, you have a tendency to get angry. Yes, because if you really care about this person like God does, you’ll let Him help you.

Let me tell you a secret about civil discourse that shouldn’t be a secret: Listening often helps you more than talking. Just listen – really listen – to the other person, and let them say what they have to say. Even if they are getting angry, your calm demeanor might soften their edge a bit. When you listen you have given them an uninterrupted chance to say what they think, and you give yourself a better chance not to misunderstand them because of what you think. This makes you both better equipped to have a discussion about your disagreeing views.

Asking questions helps, too. Do you really want to know about and understand their side of the topic? Ask questions. But don’t be haughty or belligerent about it. Your tone and body language will play into your discussion, in questions and in statements.

Let them ask questions. You aren’t the only one who has them. Even if the other person is being irritatingly pointed in their questions, answer them kindly. If you don’t know an answer, just say so and ask to get back to them when you find out. Don’t worry. While some people may ridicule you for this, I have found that just about everyone is absolutely fine with this. They don’t have all the answers either, so if they need to get back to you, let them do the same.

When you disagree with someone and you both want to talk about it, try to get into the other person’s shoes. Try to bear in mind how they feel about it. It may not make sense, but keeping it in mind will help you to be more sensitive and caring. Remember that even if the disagreement isn’t a huge moral issue, God loves you and the other person both just as much, saved or unsaved. This will also help cool your temper and increase your graciousness. God has His purpose for both sides in this discussion. Let Him guide you.