Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Unity

Life goes up and down and all around. And through it all, we have those around us who are close loved ones, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, colleagues. We are thankful for those who are close, who accept us as we are. Even when we disagree.

And then there are those people. People who are different. Or disagree with us. They just don’t fit in with our life.

We must be honest. There are so many things that divide us. Opinions about politics, religion, gender. Then add different generations, ethnicity, nationality. So, let’s talk about disagreements or differences of opinion. Another time, I will talk about other kinds differences.

When we have people around us, or even good friends, who disagree with us, what do we do with that? And, if they are NOT close friends, how do we manage disagreements? Especially those issues that run deeply into our sense of right and wrong?

We must start with understanding what unity, diversity, striving for unity, and agreeing to disagree all mean.

Unity is usually described as being the same, thinking the same way, doing the same things. Here are a few definitions :

• a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one
• the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.
• absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.
• oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.

Which of these definitions really help us right now? Not the absence of diversity. The fact is, our world is very diverse. (More on diversity next time.) I also don’t like “agreement.” We can be in unity even if we disagree about things.

I prefer the first two definitions. It gives the image of different parts being combined into one whole. Think of our bodies. We are not all little brains walking around, or just feet walking around. Our bodies are different parts with different roles working together to make one body.

So, if unity is different parts being combined into a unified whole, can we be united even if we have different opinions? I think so.

First, we must be willing have hard conversations and to listen to one another well. My passion is to help us all stop and listen to one another. To hear what the other person says. Let’s start talking together.

In relating to the people in our lives with whom we disagree, we must always have a spirit of humility. We must recognize our propensity to get things wrong. Believe it or not, we are not always right!

We must always, always treat one another with respect and dignity. Though I may disagree with you, I still recognize God’s image in you. You are valuable. You are loved. You are human. You are worthy of my respect and dignity and kindness.

Finally, we must stop. Stop denigrating someone when they do not agree with us. Stop complaining that they are doing something we do not like*. Stop. Just stop. Don’t say anything if it cannot be respectful, full of dignity toward other people. Just stop.

That does not mean we have to agree. There is a lot of diversity in this world. A lot. I don’t always agree with my husband. (Gasp!) But I still choose to love him. That’s why we need to learn to agree to disagree.

*Complaining about something we don’t like is not the same as speaking out against evil, such as sexual and/or child abuse.


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