It was John Quincy Adam’s, America’s sixth president, that said, “Stand on principle, even if you stand alone.” I admire him for his belief, but I think he had it slightly wrong. There is a cost — or at least a risk — to holding to one’s principles without concession. Also, what happens when a person’s principles conflict?
Personally, I believe standing on principle is only viable when viewed as the last resort. To me, compromise while minimizing conflict is equally valued. That’s the trade-off, I suppose. Obviously I’m not one to back away from conflict. How many time in the past three-plus years have I had to lower my head and plow through conflict? Still, it’s not my preferred tactic. I try to avoid it.
Taking the “winner-take-all-position” is (usually) wrong. I say “usually” because some situations are so extraordinary that complete supremacy is the only solution. It’s all or nothing, baby! Fortunately, I’ve never found myself in this position and I sure as hell hope I never do. I honestly believe it’s because I don’t start from my beliefs and morals. On the contrary, I accept things as they now are and work toward my principles.
Taking the higher ground means you must climb a mountain.Wow. I like how I just said that because it takes a lot of work to stand at the pinnacle of principle. It must be worth it. Getting to the top and reigning supreme is sometimes not even necessary. Allow me to explain. If I’m trying to escape the weather I just need to get above the clouds. Going any higher wastes effort.
Don’t get me wrong, standing on principle is noble, when appropriate. I’m a firm believer that there are lines in the sand that must be honored. My only advice is when taking a stand make damned sure your feet are firmly dug in where you want them. Otherwise you might look like a fool and wimp. Get them a close to your “line in the sand” — not theirs — and start gaining ground from there.
Let me be clear about the difference between one’s principles and, more specifically, morals. Moral ground is something all together different — but paradoxically oddly related — that no one should ever budge. Compromise is never the solution here. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t be open to adjusting their own morals. An open mind goes a long way and we should always consider, but not necessarily accept, other’s beliefs. Even the beliefs of our adversaries, for that matter. Morals, along with principles, can change over a person’s lifetime. Not all of them… but many.