The Words of the Sakuwa Family

Agree to Disagree Creating an Atmosphere for Growth

Chiofa Schick-Sakuwa
April 2010

Chiofa Schick-Sakuwa is a second generation Unificationist Marine Corps, Veteran who is currently serving as a full time wife and mother of three sons. Chiofa earned a Masters of Criminal Justice at Boston University.

It is often warm and comforting to observe smiling couples in the park or on television who appear to agree with one another and enjoy a harmonious relationship free of conflict or division. As many people might aim to avoid conflict and maintain a peaceful atmosphere through simply agreeing with one another at all times, this is not always possible as marriages, families, churches, communities, and corporations alike are comprised of unique and wonderfully different individuals. In a sense, conflicts of interest are often the very spices called for in the recipe for compromise.

I have come to realize through various experiences that the harmony inherent in peaceful compromise must, in a sense, be "earned" through two parties finding a common ground while acknowledging and respecting their differences; and utilizing said differences to learn more and develop themselves and one another. Conversely, if peaceful resolution is "given" in other words an agreement reached without dispute, or one made in fear or apathy, then both parties are at risk of not developing, learning, or growing as they seek to be. This is especially true in regards to inter cultural relationships, such as my own. I have often come to realize that in our quest to realize peace and harmony between contrasting cultures and beliefs, some may try to love and develop the other party by attempting to "change" him/ her/them for the better.

As noble as these intentions may be to develop someone else, harmonious compromise will not likely result unless respect and receptiveness to constructive changes are mutual. For example, my husband, who is Japanese and holds certain faith convictions, makes every effort to educate our family in what he believes is right or proper. Being an American woman, and one whose convictions of faith give her a differing opinion on what is right or proper, I am not always receptive; or sometimes even take the defensive position concerning my own perspective on the issues at hand. In other words, both of us have much to share; but neither of us wanted to be "changed" by the other.

One morning, my husband queried an American co-worker of his, whose wife is Korean, concerning the fusion of cultural differences -- food in particular, a shared weakness. Much to our surprise, his solution was for his wife to eat Korean food, and for himself to eat his good ol' bacon, grits, and coffee. In other words, his solution was to agree to disagree, as opposed to having his whole family eat either Korean food, which he did not find agreeable or western food, which his wife did not prefer. In essence, this couple's acknowledgment and respect towards one another's culturally related food preferences demonstrated their willingness to coexist and share their cultural values without trying to change each other. And through this compromise in particular, the husband and wife also expressed gaining a new sense of appreciation for, and desire to learn, the other's culture; but this time on their own terms, and from their own hearts. In this sense, agreeing to disagree can be the most direct route to achieving real harmony in contrasting relationships.

The need for respectful compromise also applies between friends, co-workers, and most importantly, between parents and children. I also consider openness and honesty to be key factors in agreeing to disagree, particularly on issues regarding not only cultural idiosyncrasies, but also differences in personal interests and religious faith. When children come to a certain age, for instance, their parents may find out, often the hard way, that their children's life direction and levels of faith were nothing like they thought they had been all along. The reasons for this may vary; but in many cases, including my own personal experience, children may withhold their true feelings and insight out of fear that their parents may misunderstand and vilify any differences of conviction.

This is sadly and typically the case in environments where the parents are rigid enforcers of their faith, as opposed to patient and loving instructors to their children. In order to effectively communicate and demonstrate convictions of faith, among other things, to my own children, for example, I know I will need to be open to dialogue, especially if it differs from my own. It is my hope, in fact, that my children will be honest with me when they disagree, albeit respectfully. But for this to happen, I know I will need to earn their trust by approaching subjects in a calm and objective manner that will inspire confidence in my love and respect for their true thoughts and feelings -- not those of which they believe I might want to hear. And when children make mistakes, I try not to react in anger, which often discourages trust and openness concerning issues beyond said mistakes. When disaster strikes, it is important to take a deep breath, step back, and put things into perspective in terms of the "big picture", more specifically long-term relationships between parents and children.

It became evident to me over the years that disagreements, even from the very young, should be responded to calmly and respectfully. For example, when my 3-year old son always seeks to yank a toy car or Bakugan from his 4-year old brother in covetous rage, I calmly and firmly explain to him that he should either find another object of affection or wait his turn out of respect for his brother's enjoyment. Reacting in anger or belittlement, on the other hand, would undoubtedly misshape his confidence in my love and judgment for years to come. And when those years eventually pass on towards my children's adolescence and adulthood, it is my hope that they will confide in me when confronted with life-altering issues, such as questions of faith or direction, as well as temptations they may face; as opposed to playing hide and sneak out of fear like I did.

In short, I have found that in order to be truly useful to God or to anyone as a matter of fact, one must be 100% honest with him/herself, and with those closest to him/her, concerning true beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. In summation, I have found that in order to achieve the greatest levels of openness and honesty, as well as true appreciation for others, not discounting ourselves, we must agree to disagree. 

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