Be welcoming to our differences and conflicts

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

YES, instead of being afraid, irritated and stressed out whenever we have differences and conflicts with others, let’s be welcoming to them and take advantage of them. A lot of good can actually be derived from them, even if we are not exempted from being pained and mortified by them.

Our differences and conflicts, which by the way are unavoidable in our life, can actually occasion genuine love and many other virtues to develop and grow. They can purify us, smoothing out the rough edges of our personality, and fine-tuning our views, opinions and preferences.

They can give rise to the development of patience and compassion, and the pursuit for the truth and justice is guaranteed to be more authentic even if it is also arduous.

They can actually expand our world of knowledge and understanding, and trigger the dynamics of a more meaningful unity among ourselves, not in spite of but rather because of our differences and conflicts. The unity we are speaking of here is not uniformity, but one that is richly nuanced and capable of accommodating everyone.

Most importantly, they can give a tremendous growth in our spiritual life, freeing us from being at the mercy of our personal, earthly and temporal conditions. They contribute greatly in our effort to make ourselves more and more like Christ who is the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity.

Our differences and conflicts are a fact of life. They can spring from all kinds of sources—temperament, culture, socio-economic and political status. There are racial and religious differences, etc.

These differences and conflicts must be part of our human condition and are an integral element in the providence of God over all of us. As such, they are part of our life. We just have to learn to live with them and try our best to use them according to God’s providence. The general pattern of how to live and make use of them is given to us by Christ himself who had to go through the most extreme kind of difficulty and conflict.

There is no use attempting to quash them altogether. We may sort them out to simplify things a bit, but we should never think that there will come a time when there will be no differences and conflicts among ourselves. Instead, what we have to do is to refer them to Christ to have an idea of how to handle them.

This does not mean, of course, that there are no good and bad things, no right and wrong, no fair and unfair situations. This does not mean that within these categories, there are no varying degrees of good and bad, right and wrong. This does not mean that we should just be indifferent to these differences and conflicts if only to achieve a semblance of unity and harmony.

We have to proclaim, in season and out of season, what is true, good and beautiful as defined for us by our faith, by Christ himself, but we should not respond with anger, hatred, violence to anything that may differ or contradict what our faith teaches, what Christ has shown us. And so, like Christ, we have to expect to suffer and even die for what our faith tells us about how to handle our differences and conflicts.

Let us remember what the Letter to the Hebrews tells: “For this world is not our permanent home. We are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (13,14) We should not be afraid to appear defeated and to have lost in this world as long as we gain the permanent and eternal home meant for us in heaven. (cfr. Mk 8,36)

We have to acknowledge the reality of these differences and conflicts all the way to their most extreme degrees. But they should not make us think that it would be better that there be no such differences and conflicts.