The Lost Art of Compromise

The Lost Art of Compromise

Life will go well for those who freely lend and are honest in business. They won’t ever be troubled, and the kind things they do will never be forgotten. (Psalm 112:5-6, CEV)

Folks often joke about the way that memory changes with age.  You have probably had one of those moments where you could not remember something in the presence of a friend, and so you made silly remark about getting older and being forgetful – no matter whether you were 30 or 60!  Most of us have felt that way at some point in time – that age hampers our memory.

Well, I have noticed something over the past few months.  As I have had more and more conversations with folks around Dunn, it has become pretty clear to me that most folks have a pretty good memory.  I have heard stories about buildings, events and happenings in the community from 10 to 60 years ago as if they had just happened yesterday.  The truth is age makes us more appreciative of our memories. So with age, we cherish memories and hold on to them.  And this really has the effect of making our memory better with age!

Yet, there is an important part of our history that we have collectively forgotten.  And I am afraid it is because we no longer cherish the memory.  It has to do with compromise.

Many would argue that our society – our culture, our neighborhoods, our organizations and business, and especially our form of government – was based upon the principle and practice of compromise.  The US Constitution was created out of hundreds of compromises. Yet today, our leaders – whether business or political – lead from a “never compromise” position.  They act and speak as if compromise means a failure to stand for ones beliefs, values and principles.  And so good leadership has become about winning – winning a debate, winning an argument, winning a competition. Win. Win. Win.

However, I think that Dr. David Abshire, a former US Ambassador to NATO during the Reagan Presidency, is right when he says:

Rejecting compromise is not about winning, it is about making sure the other side loses.

Leaders, especially politicians, have forgotten the art of compromise, so said Dr. Abshire in a 2012 article titled “Men of Principle” and the Lost Art of Compromise. And here is where my fear lies: We, the people, have followed their lead.

Current debates over issues from energy to abortion to immigration would suggest not only that we do not value compromise, but that we are not even really interested in truly hearing another person’s perspective.  Political strategy seems to be more and more about dismissing, disputing and demonizing the perspective of one’s opposition.  And here is the honest truth: when we dismiss one another, dispute one another and demonize one another, WE ALL LOSE!

What if we the people began to truly listen and appreciate the values of one another?  What if we talked respectfully enough about issues to really get past the buzz words and surface arguments to our core values?  What if we took the time to find solutions that respected those core values?

Perhaps we would find that the social and political issues of our day do not have to be so either/or, so black and white, so win or lose. We may discover that there are ways to safely extract natural resources today AND work towards new forms of energy for the future.  We may discover that there are ways to value the life of the unborn AND respect the rights of women.  We may discover that there are ways to continue to welcome refugees AND ensure the safety of every citizen.

The honest truth is that opposing sides of any issue almost always have an important point, a core value that we can all agree on at some level.  And if we can remember how to listen, how to freely lend our ear to another persons point of view, how to how to give and take with honesty, how to be true to our individual value and respect that of another person, then we may just find a way forward that we can all cherish and that will never be forgotten.


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