We cannot deny that all throughout our life, we will always have to contend with differences and conflicts among ourselves. Our unity is not meant to be a uniformity. And if we know how to play our game well, so to speak, we would also know how to make use of our differences and conflicts to strengthen, not weaken, our unity. Our differences and conflicts can actually work for our unity, not division.
The secret is always to live the virtue of charity. That is what really matters in life. As St. Paul said, charity “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13, 7-8) This is what brings us to heaven, in spite of our differences and conflicts.
It’s a pity that in our differences and conflicts we end up eaten up by anger, if not by hatred and all other forms of negativism — irony, sarcasm, bitterness, resentment, etc.
There are issues in life that can trigger not only different views, but also conflicting positions. And it would just be okay if we end up disagreeing with each other, regarding our differences as irreconcilable. We are not expected anyway to agree with each other on everything in life. But what is not okay is when we fall out of love for each other.
This does not mean that there are no right and wrong in our different and conflicting views, or that all positions hold the same value. Besides, most times we really would not know who or what is right and wrong, what is better or worse, in a particular issue. Whatever the case, we should try our best that we do not fail to live charity among ourselves.
Nowadays, there are issues that are considered hot, controversial, divisive. They usually are political in nature, or they can be social, as in the case of gender, or cultural, as in the case of the difference between nationalism and patriotism.
They can be matters of science, as in the question of global warming and climate change. They can even be issues about faith and religion.
Of course, each one of us has the right to express his view as forcefully as possible. It is just hoped that the forcefulness does not undermine the virtue of charity. We should try to learn how to be forceful and charitable at the same time in our discussions of issues. This is possible and it is imperative that we manage to learn to blend them.
We need to continually ask and check ourselves if indeed charity is always lived when we happen to go through our differences and conflicts. In fact, the ideal is that the more different and conflictive we are among ourselves in our views and positions, the more charitable we ought to be with each other. Yes, our differences and conflicts can occasion greater charity, as they should. They are not meant to be destroyers of charity.
We have to learn how to hold our horses when we feel provoked. Of course, we should try our best that in defending our respective positions, we avoid provoking others. This means that we have to try our best to know the other parties as personally as possible, so we would have an idea of how they would react to our interventions.
We have to be quick to understand others, to offer forgiveness when they commit a mistake or may happen to offend us. We should also be quick to ask for forgiveness when we are the ones who commit a mistake. And even in our most bitter conflicts, we should try to avoid inappropriate words.
In the end, we have to realize that to be able to be charitable all the time, we need to be vitally united with God who is love himself, the source, pattern and power of charity.
Fr. Roy Cimagala is the Chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise, Talamban, Cebu City.(firstname.lastname@example.org)/