In general, compromise is frowned upon. There’s a plethora of motivational quotes out there that will shame you into vowing never again to compromise anything in your life. Here are three examples.
“If you constantly compromise things in your life how will you ever realize your full potential?”
“The ‘morality of compromise’ sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don’t compromise, it is said, and principles should never be compromised.”
“Never compromise or change yourself just to get someone to like you.”
— various anonymous writers
Of course, each of these quotes were made in and for various contexts, but those contexts are often lost when it ends up on your screen or gym poster. However, regardless of the context, one thing is clear: Compromise is Bad!
For real though? I don’t think compromise is all that bad.
But before I go on, let me clarify on what I mean when I think of the word “compromise”. To me, compromise is “what happens when we settle for less than ideal”. And this can be used in any area of our lives and in any situation. You could compromise in your relationship with your spouse, or in washing the dishes. You could compromise on your parking, or your output at work.
Let’s consider the first of three quotes which I’ve cherry-picked for this article in order to make a point.
If you constantly compromise things in your life how will you ever realize your full potential? — Anonymous
So, let’s break it down. What does it mean to be “constantly” compromising? Daily? Once a year? If I always miss Thanksgiving dinner, does that count as constantly compromising on my family? What areas in our lives should we not compromise in? Are there areas we can compromise on? Some might value family over personal health, and vice versa. Who gets to decide what areas those are? What about “full potential”; full in what sense, in which aspect and by whose standards? If my career is all that matters to me, does it matter if I compromise on my health or family?
It seems like I’m nit-picking on a perfectly harmless quote, but what I’m trying to point out is that these genre of feel-good-motivational quotes are often sweeping statements made by someone who is trying to fan the flames of emotions in their audiences. The hope is to get you to feel guilty or inspired enough that you take action about the rut you find yourself in. All that is good, but I think an additional idea is also being planted alongside it: that “any compromise is bad no matter the situation”.
Much of life is unpredictable, even the predictable parts. Whether we care to admit it or not, we go through much of our lives compromising in one area or another, daily. And that’s not bad or shameful; it just IS. Compromise is a fact of life. Compromise allows us to be flexible while still working towards achieving our ideals and goals. It allows us to be free from guilt when circumstances forces our hand. Compromise allows us to be more human.
We compromise every day of our lives because we are finite beings with limited resources, energy and knowledge. We just can’t do everything perfectly, the way we want to, when we want to.
We compromise when we know we can live with the consequences of that compromise. What about decisions with greater consequences? The question is: can you live with the consequences? If yes, you are well within your ability as a person with free will to decide what you want to do. If you can’t live with the consequence, well, then don’t. Stick to your guns and follow through with what you have agreed to.
Whenever you’re at crossroads about to compromise or not, take a moment to think of the consequences. Is that something you can live with? If yes, by all means, go ahead.
I think when we begin to embrace compromise (instead of thinking that it’s taboo), we are able to think about the consequences of the compromise. I think that empowers us to make better decisions. In fact, I think it will make us more live more intentionally.
Creative Lead by day, writer by night, husband and dad throughout. I write about things that interest me and lessons I’ve learnt. My views are my own. Check out other things I’ve written.