Don’t Confuse Compromise with Surrender

by Joseph B. St John

There is always a battle between being forceful and being passive. It is always part of any equation when dealing with work or your personal life. When do you push and when do you pull? It seems easy but it is not.

One of the major problems is understanding that you must deal with compromise every day. People need to feel that they are in a win-win situation. The moment people feel they are losing ground with that concept, they will react and often it will be negative.

But compromise does not mean that you give up your rights and feelings. Compromise is not surrender. It is not letting people walk all over you. It is not rolling over to everyone’s whims. It is the exact opposite. It is retaining your rights, while respecting other people’s feelings.

Often in life when people say “compromise” they mean they want you to think or do it their way. It is sad, but compromise has become to mean doing what others want you to do, with no respect to your ideas. It is a passive way to ask you to surrender.

This is occurring in people’s lives every day and has even entered into the political climate. More than ever, it seems that people want you to believe what they believe, or they will label you a bad, bad person. The name-calling is unreal. Disagree with someone and you will be called a xenophobe, homophobic bigot. It is that plan and simple.

So, how do we react in such a reactionary world? First, we keep our belief systems intact, and we never allow ourselves to be trampled on. Second, we do not resort to name calling ourselves. It seems very old-school, but there is something about rising above the fray. It is important to be better than the next guy. There is a time to get down and dirty and then there is a time to be above it all. This is where we should live most of our lives— being above it all.

The average person seems to understand that and functions from the concept of live-and-let-live. We should all try that. It is not okay to get offended when people insult you, but then turn around and insult other people. Staying true to this idea will go a long way.

You should go out of your way to avoid being easily offended. You should be respectful to all and show the same level of respect as you want to be extended to you. That should be a guiding principle.

When is the right time to stand up for yourself? That is a question each person must answer for themselves. A good place to start is before you’re under attack. And it should always be done logically and calmly, and never out of anger. Anger is never a good place to start any dialogue. That is why you need to know what you believe and why you believe it. It should be part of your very existence.

You should always be prepared to be decent. Many times, people have ideas that are completely different from yours. These ideas may be the polar opposite of your positions. That does not mean you should “go off” on the other person. But you should present your opinion in a clear and concise manner, with no apologies. If the other  person is willing to listen to your thoughts as respectfully as you have listened to theirs, maybe a mature friendship can grow and prosper. If you are met with disrespect or ugliness, walk away. It was never going to be a good relationship anyway.

This leads us to the most difficult part of any conversation about compromise – when is it time to walk away? When is enough, enough? When do you throw in the towel for your own sanity? These are tough and real questions, and they must be answered. Every day! That seems extreme but it is true.

There is a time you have to say goodbye. Whether it is to a personal relationship, a family member, or even a job, if it gets that bad. Before you say that that seems radical, ask yourself these questions: Is your desire to keep a relationship, simply an exercise in killing your belief system? Are you being asked to sell your soul and drop your thoughts and feelings? Are you the only one being asked to compromise? If any of the questions are answered in the affirmative, you are not compromising.  You are surrendering and surrender is never good.

The world is a complicated place now and people feel free to share their beliefs, even if you did not ask for them.  It is a strange, strange world where people will trample over each other’s beliefs in a moment without any respect for each other’s feelings. I wish it was not true, but I see it every day as sad as it may seem.

So, as you work and play and live in today’s world, understand that compromise is part of the world. You will experience this; most of the time it is the right thing to do. However, compromise is not surrender. Not now, not later, and not ever.  Your beliefs are too important to lose them. Ever.

Joseph St John
Editor and Publisher of SGC