Monday, 6 February 2012

I don't like the word "Compromise"

I was reading something I wrote, as part of an essay competition, when I was in the ninth grade. The competition had asked us to explain a quote out of The Fountainhead, one of my favourite books (all Ayn Rand critics, please hold your horses... this post is not about her or the book). The crux of the essay was the issue of compromise.

Reading that essay today, I would like to add a subtext. Life is not about NOT making compromises. It is about not thinking of compromise as sacrifice. And there's a very subtle but important difference here. When we make a compromise, whether for the sake of "long term benefit" or "peace in the house" or because it seems like the "best" alternative available, it tends to be accompanied by a fit of self pity. As though we've given up on something or been forced to do so against our wishes. But I think a compromise made willingly, voluntarily is just a choice made in favour of one value over another, the happiness of a loved one over buying the latest gadget in town for example.

I think it's important to understand this distinction because interpreting compromise as sacrifice (by the way, I don't believe in the general notion of sacrifice for the same reason as above. I do think it's impossible to knowingly make a decision that causes harm to oneself without any proportionate gain) makes our relationships ugly and murky. The most common sentence uttered in a fight between two people is "I've given up so much for you" and it multifarious variations. We'd probably be better off if we understood it simply as choice without the undercurrents of self pity that the word compromise brings.

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