Updated 24th September 2018.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in a family, friendship, at church or work, disagreements and differences of opinion will happen. Each person has a unique way of viewing the world, so conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, differences of opinion often foster open communication and change.
Over the years I have found that the way I handle difference has changed. At one time I would have fought verbally for my point of view to be heard and endeavour to change the hearers view. I have come to realise that unless the difference is one of heresy I will not concern myself with the difference unless I have direct responsibility. Does the difference matter, as some difference means variety and is of no consequence. It may be you just need to accept things as they are.
However if you consider the difference is of consequence it would be wrong to discuss and advertise your view with others without approaching the individual or situation in private. It is far better to converse face to face than by any other means to avoid misunderstandings, or what often by written media can be a more forceful presentation that is not helpful. So your opinion is not one for the notice board, as to gossip your view is ungodly, destructive and counterproductive. After all what do I base the rightness of my opinion? As far as heresy is concerned I base it on the solid word of God. Does the situation or difference align with God’s word? If not and I consider it right to do so then I will involve myself in a gracious manner not by written media, or with verbal boxing gloves, or if you have the privilege of a platform use it as a one way boxing ring.
So how can we handle difference when it is necessary to discuss it?
1) Firstly pray, and listen for guidance. If possible seek Godly council.
2) Speak face to face. Tone of voice, facial expression and other nonverbal cues are lost in an email, letter or telephone call.
3) Consider the other person’s point of view and be prepared to change. You could be wrong!
4) Clarify the difference. Confusion can be a breeding ground for miscommunication, so take time on the front end to work through the difference.
5) Find common ground and go from there.
6) If you are wrong apologise.
7) Compromise is acceptable in certain situations.
8) Understand that there is a great potential to learn from each other’s mistakes. Consider this experience whatever the outcome a learning one that will serve you well down the road.
9) If you agree to disagree remember that difference doesn’t mean disunity.
Message. Ephesians 4:3 I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline, not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.