Division feels like such a normal and acceptable part of life. If you have an opinion there are often others who support your opinion and also those who are either offended by, disagree with or flat out oppose your opinion. Naturally this concept of camp vs. camp creates the illusion of two sides wherein one is right and one is wrong.
Conflict is one of the most constructive and necessary relationship tools provided to us during the maturity and development of our worldview. However, it's too often that we expect the result of conflict to have a winner and a loser.
When our intention for conflict is to win, even subconsciously, both sides lose.
When we form an opinion, it begins as an inclination where we think, "I believe this to be true based on what I've known to be true from my perspective due to experience and teachings." Over time our opinion is tested through application or backed by sources that we allow ourselves to believe as true.
For instance you could say, "Diet Dr. Pepper is the best soda out there!" This might be true for you based on your history of weighing the different options against one another, your choice to forgo sugar-based soda, a family trend or, as a child, it being the only tasty alternative to water or milk in the household.
Conversely, another person with a completely different background may have never been exposed to the idea that 'diet' soda was worth considering. In their household, sugar wasn't something that should be limited. Or maybe the drink-of-choice was sweet tea. Or maybe they live in a region that simply doesn't offer the drink; but maybe they have a friend who vehemently despises Diet Dr. Pepper. Therefore, their only relatable opinion to the 'is Diet Dr. Pepper good' debate is that they've never formed a first-hand opinion but by extension have a poor opinion of it based on how they value their friend's position.
So what does this have to do with conflict?
Whether it's regarding a trivial topic such as soda preference or something more identity threatening, such as racism, handling conflict with the wrong perspective has the propensity to cause division.
It's too often modeled that stances, opinions, perspectives... all of the various points of alternate worldview automatically lumps the owner into a specific body wherein motives are assumed simply by association. Liberal Vs. Conservative, 'Christian' Vs. LGBTQ, Republican Vs. Democrat, black Vs. white, Carolina Vs. Duke. It's a school of thought wherein we assume that 'because you believe X, Y and Z must also be true about you .'
I remember back in middle school when there was a belief that yellow no. 5, the dye in Mountain Dew, caused guys to have a small penis. Therefore, any guy who drank Mountain Dew automatically had a small penis. Unlucky. And though the idea was backed only by the immature yet imaginative rationale of 13 year old minds, most guys wouldn't risk their reputation to campaign against the injustice of false Mountain Dew shaming.
Conflict as a rallying force
To really understand conflict you have to first understand defense. The whole driving force behind why we choose to action conflict as a means for winning is to defend something about ourselves: beliefs, physical wellbeing, quality of life, reputation. It's control over the situation. "I have to be right about this so I'm going to defend my point."
If there is any truth to a position, it will defend itself. Truth is truth because it's nature is to withstand falsehood.
For instance, you don't need to defend the position that a hot stove will burn you. It will burn you regardless what you think. It doesn't matter if I, in my limited mechanical education, believe my car can make it 100 miles when the tank is empty. It will stop running long before then.
"But what about stuff like abortion? A fetus can't protect itself!"
You're right. It can't. But afforementioned, side vs. side conflict doesn't develop heart change or cultivate true, lasting understanding. Especially as the gravity of an issue gains weight, the focus should that much moreso be on unified pursuit of the truth with both sides choosing to earnestly listen and consider.
Let's be real. Laws would be perfect if we weren't human. But we all come from different backgrounds with various belief amalgamations of what's true and what's false. Even right now there are some things you absolutely believe to be true that are in fact false to at least some degree. Moreover, we allow selfish tendencies that influence how we manage conflict in order to maintain and further our benefit in the position.
That's why laws are not perfect. Systems are not perfect. Religion especially is not perfect. It's all mostly manmade. That's why we have mediators to navigate the grey area. In a perfect situation, the mediator is unbiased and cares more about aligning the involved parties towards a greater, common good - creating order [and peace] in chaos.
A rallying voice
But even good mediators have some bias and can be influenced by emotion or proximity to an issue. That's why division is such a powerful adversary. There are too few who rally and even they don't do it perfectly.
I've found that most often it's not the issues themselves that cause the most chaos in my life. Rather it's how I deal with them that's the main problem. Anger, fear, regret, resentment, hatred, bias - it all stems from a base of falsehoods that I've allowed to take root in my life at one point or other. At one point I started to believe that my position on a circumstance carries more value than the humanity of unified pursuit of the truth about that circumstance.
Basically, I allowed myself to believe that how I felt was more important than a person who had the misfortune of disagreeing with me. And that's a huge problem.
The concept of hurt sucks because it preys on all of the little opportunities for everything I mentioned prior about falsehoods. It magnifies our anger. It magnifies our fear. It magnifies our hatred, our bias, our resentment. And when we don't or can't properly navigate these issues, our hurt manifests in hurting others.
Our hurt can manifest in our actions as we do things that target believed falsehoods in other people's lives in order to ease our own hurt. But that never really solves the problem.
It only creates more hurt. It only creates more division.
Rallying against division
Flight attendants get it. As you get settled in your seat they begin the awkward presentation of what to do during an emergency. They mechanically articulate the seat belt buckle in it's designed fashion modeling the prompt of a muffled intercom. And then, as they plainly transition from seatbelt to oxygen mask, this brilliant line is delivered, "Fasten your own mask before trying to assist your neighbor."
If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.
You've got to start with yourself. People do as they think. If you believe that your hurt is more important than the value of a person, your actions will follow suit. It all begins with your thoughts.
The sobering reality is that your thoughts are also the place where all of your falsehoods, hurt and assumptions begin. Your thoughts and how you choose to manage them are the preamble to a life season of order or chaos. Ultimately, it's the latter that causes division.
So what's the good news? Life is a locomotion of pursuing what is true and what is false in our lives. There is no destination. You're never going to arrive at a point where you've got it all figured out perfectly. That's where grace fills in the cracks.
Grace: the act of giving or receiving something that's not deserved.
You have the grace to figure things out - to be messy, unrefined and honest about your process. It takes time and it's something that for which only you have the jurisdiction. But you also have the responsibility to take accountability for the result when you allow your feelings and emotions to make the decision for how you act.
And the same is true for the other person, party, camp, etc which whom you are allowing yourself to have a grievance. They deserve the exact same grace to be heard and to process that you, too, are given freely.
The truth is that you are valuable and worth the grace of time and patience. And so are they.