“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Neil Gaiman

Picture this: You’re standing at a crossroads, and at the other side is someone with whom you share a deep difference of opinion. Perhaps it’s your childhood friend, with whom you’ve shared everything since sandbox days but whose political views now sharply diverge from your own. Or maybe it’s a coworker who has a drastically different approach to problem-solving, which challenges your own methods.

You have the same question in front of you, yet your answers differ as drastically as a sun-drenched day from a moonlit night. You feel the tension rising, like the simmering heat on a summer day, and the words “we’re done here” are sitting on the edge of your tongue, ready to leap.

But should they? Should we always part company when our answers differ, or can there be another way?

Let’s dive into this question. But before we do, let’s remember one essential fact: every conversation we have, every relationship we foster, is a colorful canvas on which we can paint our wisdom and generosity. And, just as a great painter takes his time with every stroke, we too should be careful in how we approach these tricky conversations.

The world we live in is diverse, full of a myriad of ideas and people who believe in them. Each one of us carries a unique set of beliefs, values, and experiences, as diverse as the leaves on a tree. And when these differences collide, the lines of division can seem as clear as a freshly drawn chalk line.

Yet wisdom, like a skillful sculptor, knows when to cut and when to smooth. We need that wisdom to discern when it’s indeed time to part ways and when it’s time to embrace the collision of thoughts, to shape it into something new and beautiful. Let’s make no mistake; not everyone deserves a seat at the table of our lives. Yet, let’s not be hasty to close the door either, for haste is the enemy of understanding.

Let’s lean into generosity. Let’s be the gentle stream that carves a grand canyon over time, rather than the harsh wind that creates a desert. Generosity here isn’t just about giving, it’s about understanding. It’s about being quick to listen.

Imagine a world where, instead of lashing back instantly at someone with a conflicting viewpoint, we took a step back. Where we let their words sink in, turning them over like a polished stone in our minds, seeking the gem of truth that may lie within. That’s being quick to listen.

And what if we were slow to speak? If we took the time to carefully choose our words, to ensure they are a balm rather than a spark to the kindling. If we were to serve up our words like a chef, tasting each one for its potential impact, our conversations would indeed look a lot different. That’s being slow to speak.

And what about being slow to anger? Anger is like a blazing wildfire. It destroys, leaving nothing but charred remains. But what if we could harness our emotions, channel them into something productive? That’s being slow to anger.

Life’s symphony plays out in our daily interactions, and how we respond to our differences will determine the melody we create. Let’s err on the side of generosity—be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Let’s not rush to slam the door. We might discover that the harmony created by our divergent notes produces the most beautiful music.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.