Just as there are laws that govern the physical universe, there are spiritual laws which govern relationships.
Although it may be more difficult to discern these laws, this can be done with time, experience, and the application of God’s Word. For instance, the Law of Sowing and Reaping explains what happens when you sow a certain type of seed (love): you will reap the crop of that seed (being loved).
Another law has been tested in the trenches of relationships since the creation of mankind. It is called the Law of Differences.
Our Unique Differences and Strengths: They’re God’s Design
God created people with distinctive differences and unique strengths. For example, Tim may be an aggressive problem-solver who tackles issues head-on, with directness. Kate reflectively considers issues and problem-solving steps involved in complex situations. Both of these personality styles have desirable strengths, but one may be a better match for a particular situation. Some problems require aggressive action while others are best solved after a measured amount of reflection.
Likewise, Marty might have the interpersonal strengths of enthusiasm, trust, and persuasion. However, when it comes to new information and new people, it’s not likely to find Marty exhibiting the strengths of logic and clarity, like Samantha. Yet in different situations, either of these styles can be seen as desirable.
It’s easy to see that God created each person with a unique (but incomplete) set of strengths and then placed us in relationships. Since He is not observed to be a God of accident or coincidence, it is likely that God gave each of us unique strengths on purpose. Scripture teaches that God had a divine design for differences. Our uniqueness makes us interdependent on each other.
The biblical basis for this is found in 1 Corinthians 12:14-20:
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
These verses describe the many parts in the body. Each part (or type) observes the others, even desiring to become another in order to fit in. It is natural for us to observe and evaluate others: Is he the same or different from me? How does she measure up? However, scripture reminds us that each part is not only needed but that the body would be incomplete without each and every part.
Like God’s design for the human body, He created mankind with differences and placed us together to become one interdependent unit. This interdependence is needed not only in work relationships, but also in ministry, marriage, and the family.
The Law of Differences: You Have a Choice
The Law of Differences holds that there are just two paths we can take as we observe others’ differences.
- We can value another’s individual differences (focus on strengths)
- We can judge another’s individual differences (focus on weaknesses)
These two pathways have different, even opposite outcomes. When we judge, we tend to see another’s differences as weaknesses. Judgment always leads away from the other person toward relational isolation, and that leads to a dying relationship (“death”). However, when we value another’s differences, we see the strengths that God gave them. Valuing differences leads toward relational unity and oneness, which is a step toward life. Therefore, valuing differences leads to a living, thriving relationship.
In every relationship, you have a choice. You can choose to value another’s differences, or you can judge them. Your decision will dictate whether your relationship “lives” or “dies.”
How the Law of Differences Plays Out in Real Life
When we are first introduced to a new co-worker, future spouse, or other individual, we often recognize a strength set and style different from our own. It’s natural to be attracted to differences, acknowledging how another’s strengths complete us. But as a relationship progresses, perspectives change. Often the traits we initially valued as strengths become the very things that we soon judge as weaknesses.
I have seen this phenomenon happen over and over in work relationships, marriages, and families … and have even experienced it first hand. Years ago, I met a very different (and beautiful) young woman with an opposite style and opposite strengths to my own. She trusted people and information, and this made it easy for her to get along with many different people. She could even talk to an analytical, factual, calculating person like me.
When we were dating, we could talk for long periods. Not long after we married, I noticed that she lacked having all the facts and analysis before talking. She needed to be changed! Soon, I began to attempt to turn her into me. I “judged” that she would be happier being more like me … and I knew that I would be. At the same time, she realized she needed to “change” my tendency to be too logical. The Law of Differences was at work. Each of us had chosen one of the two paths available to us.
Judgment moved us toward isolation and our relationship began to slowly die. This went on for 27 years—until we reached a point of total frustration and even talked of divorcing. Then God intervened. We attended a marriage seminar which used behavioral profiles allowing participants to understand their spouses. That’s when we started to realize that our differences were actually strengths. We began to grow closer together and our marriage was transformed. As the Law of Differences brought our relationship back to life, God breathed new life into our marriage.
The Choice Is Yours
The same principle applies to relationships in ministry, at work, in your family, and in all aspects of your life.
The truth is that each of us is different. And it’s by God’s design. Yet those differences do not need to divide us.
You can strengthen your relationships. You can bring peace to a relationship full of conflict. You can have relationships you’d only dreamed about. There is no need to just survive … when you can thrive.
Whether you choose to value or judge others – and their God-given strengths – will dictate whether you live or die in a relationship.
The choice is yours.