How to deal with differences of opinion

As each one of us humans is an irreducible individual, we all will have different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. This will sooner or later lead to mutual differences of opinion. Generally, we learn to live with such differences; we consciously or unconsciously adopt the motto, “Live and let live.”

However, such coexistence becomes difficult when the two sides see the differences of opinion differently. Suppose one side considers the difference super-important, whereas the other side considers the difference to be inconsequential. This second side doesn’t get worked up about the difference, whereas the first side gets worked up about that difference — and gets even more worked up seeing that the other side is not at all worked up. The first side labels the second side insensitive, even monstrously insensitive. Incensed by such labeling, the second side labels the first side hypersensitive, even rabidly hypersensitive. And thus begins the wall of polarization that separates, scalds and scars both sides, making the lives of both miserable, even unlivable.

How can this be avoided? Through empathy, The Bhagavad-gita (06.32) urges us to see the shared spirituality that can unify all of us; this implies that just as we take our first-person experience seriously, so do others take their first-person experience seriously. If the first side tries to understand why the other side doesn’t consider the differences so serious and the second side tries to understand why the first side considers the differences so serious, both can come to a better mutual understanding, even if they don’t come to mutual agreement on that issue. With that improved mutual understanding, they can connect with each other better and thereby learn how to live with their differences.

Differences of opinions can be lived with; differences in opinion about the importance of those differences can make life unlivable.

– HG Govinda Das