The swift wind of compromise is a lot more devastating than the sudden jolt of misfortune – Charles R. Swindoll
The Hunter and Bear
A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. When he was about to pull the trigger, the bear spoke in a soft soothing voice, “Isn’t it better to talk than to shoot? What do you want? Let’s negotiate the matter.” Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, “I want a fur coat.” “Good,” said the bear, “that is a negotiable question. I only want a full stomach, so let us negotiate a compromise.” They sat down to negotiate, and after a time, the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat!
Although written as a joke, the above story highlights the danger of compromise in the face of non-negotiables. The hunter tried to negotiate with a bear whose sole aim was to finish him. In life, we will come across bears. Metaphorically speaking, “bears” are situations, circumstances, including people that challenge us to negotiate and lower our standards or values to achieve something we are desperate for. When we meditate too long on gaining something the quickest way, regardless of legitimacy, we invite compromise to have a seat at our decision-making table. The hunter got what he wanted but he was consumed by the bear.
The spirit of compromise has been useful in moving the needle forward in various areas of life, such as the healthy compromises Martin Luther King Jr. made with then-President Lyndon Johnson for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be signed into law. In relationships, healthy compromises maintain unity and harmony. In today’s blog post, I will look at compromise from the angle of lowering standards and values to act wrongly for gaining something desirable in the name of self-interest.
Eroded By Compromise
Looking at it from the angle above, compromise is a consuming force that casts a shadow on our integrity and trust. As pastor Charles Swindoll once said; “Like an enormous oak that has decayed for years from within and then suddenly falls, those who permit the eroding grind of compromise can expect an ultimate collapse.” This erosion washes away our influence and dependability as people catch on to our compromising ways.
Once compromise starts, it creates a caustic effect in every area of our lives until we ultimately lose whatever we compromised to gain. Additionally, honesty is robbed from our story when compromise becomes a way of life. As a fox bent on destroying a vineyard in bloom, compromise always rears its ugly head and spreads its tentacles as soon as you start to see progress in your dream or goal. It will tempt you with cutting corners here and there, rationalizing each one with the deceptive assurances that “no one will find out”, “everyone is doing it,” or the one that takes the trophy, “just this one time.”
Unfortunately, the appetite for compromise grows with each use until we experience a slow, imperceptible death to our convictions, values, character, dreams, and goals.
Breached by Compromise
China’s best-known monument is the Great Wall that surrounded the country during the Ming Dynasty. At four thousand miles long and over twenty feet tall, the Wall was designed to be an impregnable obstacle to invading armies. The idea was a good one, and it would have worked well—except that the enemy was able to bribe the gatekeeper. With the compromise of one guard, an impenetrable wall was rendered useless.
Our integrity, trust, and even dependability are the bricks that build the wall of values and standards we live by. How can we prevent this wall from being eroded and breached by compromise?
The Compromise Repellant
Each time an opportunity for a compromise comes up, ask yourself, “Then what?” An expanded version of this question is, “When I tell my story, or someone tells the story of my life, is this an action I would be confident of replaying?
Taking a pause for this inquiry puts a check in your conscience. This allows you to split the hair of choice accurately in areas where others might simply roll the dice of compromise and hope no one ever finds out. “Then what?” calls you to consider the future consequence(s) of a compromise before you take action in the present.
Like pouring water to extinguish a fire, this question puts out the raging fire of desperation, a sense of false urgency, or self-interest that often precedes compromise.
Final Thought: The hunter and gatekeeper may have had a different story if they had asked “Then what?” prior to the actions they took. How much better will the story of your life be if you pause and ask, “Then what”? in the face of compromise?
Keep on keeping on.