It sounds radical. “Stop compromising!” conveys a hard line like, “my way or the highway.” Yet, Jesus himself was not a compromiser. He took a firm line on the core things he stood for. As for everything else? He gave them away. I call it: “Take a stand or Give it away.” When you follow this Christian principle, there is no compromise and stronger commitments will be your reward. Let me explain.
When you take a stand, that’s a hard line. There is no compromise. But when you give your position away, there is no compromise in that either. Like a Christmas present, you give it away without any desire to control what the recipient does with it. If you are advanced in your spiritual journey, you won’t even keep track of whether you get paid back in kind at some future time. After all, as St. Paul wrote, “It [love] keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Cor 13)
Compromising steals our peace, fills us with anxiety and causes us to feel regrets that shake our own commitment to decisions. We gave something away that we didn’t really want to give away. This wavering causes others to waver too. We need to stop doing that to ourselves…and to those we love. It is a cruel habit to compromise. Proverbs 26:7 teaches us, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted but the enemy multiplies kisses.” A compromise is a loaded kiss.
Consider the many times you have regretted your words or deeds. Was a compromise involved? Your friend asks to borrow a sum of money. Did you give it freely? The bible teaches us to lend as if we will never receive the money back. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” (Luke 6:34) If we do, bonus! If we don’t, we never expected it back anyway. Thus, we did not compromise in the first place, nor is there any need to compromise later at the time of conflict over repayment.
You worked for a company for many years. A day arrives and your employment is terminated. You are given a financial package. Do you accept it? Do you take a stand and negotiate for more? What is your reasoning? Is it based on how many years you were employed? A common compromise is that “I gave this company the best years of my life and now they owe me.” Do they? Did you not work freely and willingly and were you not compensated for those years accordingly? If not, you compromised something of value – your time – in exchange for a pay cheque.
Your sister or mother asks you to do something. You feel guilty. You don’t want to do it but they remind you of how they have helped you. So you do it. Reluctantly. Did you compromise? If you resent it, that is compromise. Take a stand or give it away. Either refuse the request or do it wholeheartedly. Both of these choices lead to inner peace.
The hard part is that if you refuse to give something you value away to another, they will enter into conflict with you. They will criticize you to your face (if you’re lucky) or behind your back (most likely). You know this and the loss of favour in their eyes and the eyes of those to whom they speak negatively about you, hurts.
Thus, we see that we compromise not to please others but rather to protect ourselves from being judged by others. So long as we do this, we are compromising not only ourselves but God himself. Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12:50). How can we do the will of the Father if we are more concerned about the will of others?
The peace that surpasses all understanding is ours when we do his will. This requires us to surrender our own will to his. When we do, compromise is not possible. All that is possible is to take a stand or give it away. In my experience, the vast majority of the time, we will give it away, not take a stand. That is why I describe our spiritual transformation like that of a watermelon that becomes a peach. One is large and hard yet mush on the inside. The other is small and soft yet hard on the inside. Jesus is like a peach. He is our role model.
To stop compromising requires us to discern what to take a stand on and what to give away. This is akin to the serenity prayer – having the wisdom to know what to accept and what to change. We gain this wisdom when we pull the plank out of our eye when in conflict (Matthew 7:5). The plank is our biased view of the outcome we want. With that, we cannot see clearly what to do. Most frequently, we accept what we should change and we change what we accept. We are spiritually blind.
In order to stop compromising and get strong commitments from others, we must be clear. To be clear, we must see clearly, as Jesus sees – with compassion and mercy towards those who have harmed us. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) As we forgive those who trespass against us, so God will forgive us our own trespasses. This is plainly stated by Jesus but not appreciated for its self-fulfilling reality.
Furthermore, we can take a stand while exhibiting compassion. Jesus took many stands, the biggest of which was his claim to be the Son of God. Had he denied it, Pilate would have released him. Instead, he died rather than compromise the core of his being. When we know the core of our being, we too become willing to suffer if needed in order to take a stand in the face of hurtful consequences. Then we become free in the Spirit.
We will have living water and we will never die. When we overcome death, we are free to live. In that freedom, we see that we must not compromise but rather, give it away most of the time, freely and willingly.