Tim Richard’s Column: Being Agreeable
In his August 16, 2021, Daily Article, Dr. Jim Denison wrote about the relationship which developed between Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. Clinton defeated Bush in the 1992 presidential election. However, after leaving office, the two fierce political foes gradually became friends.
Author Jean Becker, in The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H. W. Bush’s Post-Presidency, described the first hint of the Clinton-Bush friendship when Bush offered kind remarks at the dedication of the Clinton library in 2004. The following year at then current President George W. Bush’s request, the former presidents jointly visited Asian countries hit by a massive tsunami.
The senior Bush was already beginning to show symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and throughout the trip Clinton stayed by his side, steadying him when necessary. Though the senior Bush had intensely disliked Clinton, he began treating him with respect, kindness, and according to Becker, “sometimes like a son.” Barbara Bush believed her husband became almost the father Clinton never had. Clinton broke down in tears at Bush’s funeral in 2018.
Each of us should practice the humility Bush and Clinton demonstrated. Dr. Tony Beckett, a former teacher with Back to the Bible said, “…we can accept those with whom we disagree without approving their viewpoint, beliefs, or behaviors… That can change everything when they realize you are not focused on pointing out where they are wrong but are willing to learn why they think as they do. Humility opens the door to relationships that allow meaningful conversation.”
While we need to articulate what we believe and why we believe it, we need love for those with whom we disagree even more. This does not mean we doubt our beliefs, but that we understand only God can change hearts and minds.
Each of us are deeply flawed but with humility we can see ourselves more as God does and recognize all of us fall far short of perfection in our actions and in our thinking. This perspective is never easy; however, I believe it is what God expects of us, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2, NLT)
I am not suggesting we change our beliefs to get along, rather that we never stop loving others even when we strongly disagree with them. Dr. Jim Denison wrote, “We should be righteous without being self-righteous… That shouldn’t dim our passion one bit,” we “merely temper it with wisdom.” As we learn to act humbly and to love those with whom we disagree, we can have a far greater impact than if we demonize each other.
Barbara Bush called her husband and Clinton the “odd couple.” President Clinton said, “I think people see George and me and they say, ‘That is the way our country ought to work.’” This is how God wants us to relate to one another.