Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Agreeing to Disagree
When do we strive for unity? And when do we need to agree to disagree?
Because we are diverse, and because unity is different parts being combined into a unified whole (see the March 9 blog on Unity), we have a choice.
- Do we just conduct our lives living as separate people, not connecting, not living in community where we care for one another and really communicate?
- Do we choose to live in community, striving for a unity in the midst of diverse people?
If we do not choose to live in community, by default, we choose to live as individuals all doing our own thing.
The challenge, however, is that as soon as we choose to be in community, there will be diversity, whether of race, nationality, religion, opinions about politics or gender, and generations.
When I got married, there was a choice to start our family, a new community. Right from the start, two people living together with different opinions. Yes, we were the same race, same religion, same generation. But we were two different people. Different personalities (extrovert vs introvert). Different family upbringing (somewhat peaceful vs sparks flying often). Different birth order (#2 of 4 vs #5 of 5). Different regional backgrounds (suburb vs farm/small town). This impacted how we related to one another. And there were indeed disagreements for things as basic as what time should we arrive at church.
If this is just two people, what happens when you add more people? The more people you add to the community, the more likelihood of differences showing up. Diversity is inevitable. Thus, living in community is messy.
In the Bible, there is a verse that says, “Without oxen, the stable stays clean.” (NLT) If you don’t have oxen in your stables, there will be no dung. If you don’t have people, you don’t have the messiness of life. But we can’t live that way, without people.
We must make a choice to live in community, to be with people. And to be with people calls us to aim for unity within the diversity. With the messiness in a diverse group of people comes the need to learn the art of compromise, learning to find a middle ground. But what if we have completely different ideas or opinions on something? We must learn to agree to disagree.
How does one do that?
- First, remind yourself:
- that the other person is a fellow human, deserving respect and dignity and kindness, even if they disagree with you!
- that often people have a lot in common even amid diversity. Ask yourself, what do you have in common with this person? Sometimes people are heading toward the same goal but with different means.
- Secondly, get some perspective. Realize that unless it is a life and death situation, who wins an argument will not be important 10 years from now. No one will remember.
- Thirdly, let it go. It won’t help you nor the other person to come out on top. If you are arguing about religion or football teams, trying to change the other person’s opinion will do no good. For them or for you.
Share opinions. Don’t be afraid of discussing differences. But respect one another in the process. And agree in the end to disagree.