The Art of Compromise


When do you stand firm and when do you compromise? Always a tough decision and during this election season it’s front and center in our lives. People love to criticize politicians for never taking a unpopular stand, but how many of us can distinguish between what’s really important and what’s trivial in our lives? Consider this quote:

“Compromise where you can, where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, ‘No, you move.’”

Sound familiar? It might if you saw this summer’s big hit, Captain America: Civil War and happen to remember what Sharon Carter said at her Aunt Peggy’s funeral. What? Something profound in a comic movie? Surprised? Watch it again, the issues at play in the movie are actually quite profound and very current.


I love that quote and find it to be quite true, but not always easy to follow. What do I refuse to compromise on? Everything? Doesn’t that make me a fanatic? But if I do the opposite and always compromise then I become a spineless weasel.

And then there’s the issue of how I treat those who are telling me to move when I don’t believe I can. The quote says “Say no, you move.” But today it seems most of us are yelling at each other rather than speaking to each other.

And we don’t just yell no, either. We yell something like, “No, you racist, bigoted, un-American, sexist, ______ (fill in the blank) aphobe scumbag! You move!” So we are spending hour upon endless hour on cable TV, Twitter, Facebook, etc. talking (shouting really) at each other. In the end we usually generate a tremendous amount of heat and no light whatsoever.

This kind of talk is not very helpful and usually it’s not very accurate either.

At some point each one of us has to determine what our core beliefs really are. What can I compromise on and what is so vital to me that I cannot compromise it at all? And then, like the quote above says, we have to take a stand. Firmly but lovingly and kindly.

There’s no excuse to hurl insults at others, unless of course you are so insecure in your beliefs that smearing others is the only way to protect your beliefs. Those who are confident in what they believe, and more importantly why they believe it, should be civil and willing to let others have their say even when they disagree with them.

Here’s another quote, often wrongly attributed to Voltaire. It was actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, a member of the Friends of Voltaire to sum up his attitude about free speech.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

How can we talk about protecting people’s civil rights when we can’t even speak with civility to each other? As believers in freedom, we ought to strive to be fair to each other and allow everyone to have their say, no matter how we may feel about what they are saying. I’m illustrating this by quoting from those who like Voltaire, since he was dedicated to destroying much of what I believe in. But just like me and everyone else, he should be allowed to speak.

Here’s one thing I refuse to compromise on, even though I freely admit I don’t always live up to this ideal the way I should. I will respect those who disagree with me, even those who might mock my most sacred and profound standards and beliefs. The way to do this is summed up nicely by an ancient piece of wisdom, and I promise it’s the last quote of the column!

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Letter to the Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)

I won’t compromise what I believe in. In many areas the entire culture is moving 180 degrees away from what I believe. I respect their freedom to do so. But when they ask, or demand, that I move away from what I believe in, I’m saying no.

A respectful no, a loving no, a kindly no, but an unyielding one as well. You can, and should, speak what you know to be true. But if you fail to do so in love, then all you’ll be doing is making a lot of noise, which isn’t very likely to win anyone over.

So stand firm and stay true to your beliefs if they withstand scrutiny and are found to be true. And as you interact with those who disagree with you remember to do so in as respectful and loving way as you can. Then our dialog will be elevated and maybe, just maybe, we’ll all learn something.

# # #

Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *