Learning to Compromise


Don't agonize, compromise

People: we can't get along without them and we can't get along with them. We can't get along without them because we can't do everything; we need their help, and they need ours. We can't get along with them because their interests and goals clash with ours. So, how do we reconcile these differences? How do we change frustration, bickering, and interference into cooperation? The answer is with compromise.

Compromise is a pillar of society, for it restores harmony, overcomes distrust and suspicion, and leads to cooperation. Edmund Burke (1729 ~ 1797) puts it this way, "All government, - indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act, - is founded on compromise and barter." It is helpful to remember that EVERYTHING IS FOUNDED ON COMPROMISE. Think about it. Your job is a compromise between salary and responsibility; the car you drive, between performance and efficiency; the products you buy, between quality and low price; the medicine you may take, between benefits and side effects, and your marriage, between give and take.

Our first act must be one of compromise, conciliation, reconciliation, accommodation, give and take, and concession. Don't even bother worshipping God until you have done so. For Christ has taught, ""If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go: first be reconciled to your brother, and then come, and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:24) As long as we keep the need for compromise foremost in our minds, we'll have a trouble-free life.

The wise realize that it is better to bend than to break, and better to give a little than to receive nothing. Yes, it is in our self-interest to make concessions and accommodate others. But as we grow more aware, we come to understand that compromising is not only about offering concessions; it is also about offering respect and a willingness to help. Compromise, then, becomes an opportunity to bring happiness to others. Even after giving away a bouquet of flowers, their fragrance lingers in our clothing, and even after leaving someone we have helped, their happiness lingers in our mind. So, you see, compromising is not about agonizing, but about success, harmony, and happiness.

Daily, innocent men, women, and children are needlessly killed in the cross fire of warring parties. Can there be peace without accommodation, reconciliation, and compromise? Some of the obstacles to peace are the scriptures followed by those at war. For example, is the following passage a road map to peace? "When Yahweh your gods has settled you in the land you're about to occupy, and driven out many infidels before you… you're to cut them down and exterminate them. You're to make no compromise with them or show them any mercy." (Deut. 7:1)

The scriptures of other religions are just as harmful. As long as religious leaders and their followers insist that every word of scripture is the word of God, they will be able to justify their barbaric butchery. But, scriptures contain venom as well as wisdom, love as well as hatred, treachery as well as brotherhood, and deceit as well as sacrifice. Until we recognize there are both good and bad in the scriptures that have been handed down to us, we will be unable to choose the good and dismiss the bad. It is time to do some pruning, time to uproot the weeds that are choking all prospects for peace, and time to replace vengeance with reconciliation.

Instead of filling mortuaries with bodies and hospitals with wounded, we need to fill towns and villages with jobs and opportunities. Rather than waging war with 'terrorists,' we need to wage war with poverty. Instead of smiting our enemy with a sword, we need to offer a helping hand. Instead of trampling our enemy beneath our boots, we need to uplift him with respect and hope. There is nothing wrong with destroying our enemy, as long as we do so by making him our friend.

Compromise isn't always a worthy goal. If some friends tell a teen to join them in stealing a car to go out for a 'joyride,' he shouldn't compromise his principles. He shouldn't compromise his integrity. Sometimes it takes courage to do the right thing, but by refusing to become a thief, he protects his friends and society from loss of property.

Another factor to consider is our motivation. When we compromise out of fear, it is not a compromise, but submission; it is not a compromise, but appeasement. We don't help the world by giving in to bullies; on the contrary, doing so empowers them and encourages them to intimidate and manipulate others.

Compromise is about mutual respect and mutual support. Beware of those who take advantage of others by taking without giving anything in return. They like to manipulate others by making them feel guilty. For example, perhaps a coworker regularly blows their money and comes to you whining, "Oh, I ran out of money again and I'm s-o-o hungry! Can you buy me lunch (again)?" It is not helpful to give in because to do so would encourage the manipulator to remain dependent on others, instead of learning the consequences of their actions. Besides, helping the undeserving may deprive you of the means to help someone more deserving.

Don't make it your goal to be liked by everyone. For to do so will tempt you to give in to the demands of others. Instead, make it your goal to do the right thing. Compromising is a necessary and good thing, except when it is a bad thing. At such a time, don't do it. At times, we fail to do the right thing because of fear. To lessen that likelihood, consider the following words of Marianne Williamson, which are taken from her book "A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles (Harper Collins, 1992, chapter 7, section 3). Before sharing her poem, I'd like to mention that Nelson Mandela was so moved by it that he quoted from it in his 1994 Inaugural Speech. Here is Marianne Williamson's "Our Deepest Fear."

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate -
our deepest fear is that
we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be
brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are born to make manifest
the Glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others

© Chuck Gallozzi
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