“In life you have to make compromises” – how many times have we heard this advice or maybe we ourselves have given it to others?
Very often, however, this expression implies something that “leaves a bad taste in the mouth”, sometimes it indicates something that harms dignity or integrity.
Or “Marriage is built on compromise.” And then follows the stereotype “Marriage is the grave of love.”
And what about the comment: “That is a person who lives on compromises”? It is synonymous with living by expedients that are not always or not entirely honest, in short, at the least worst. Not exactly inspiring as a model.
There are those who say that compromises are important to be happy, and those who say that compromises lead to unhappiness.
There are those who believe that where there is life there are compromises and that the absence of compromises is not integrity but fanaticism.
But what does it actually mean to compromise?
The word comes from the Latin Compromissus (cum = together, promissus = promised), which could be translated as “obliged together” or “to make a mutual promise”.
It makes us understand what the honor of the shared promise meant in ancient times, agreeing, establishing a common project, finding a solution between conflicting forces. So, a noble intent.
In the field of law it is reflected in the concept of the preparatory contract that precedes the deed or marriage or deed with which the parties appoint one or more arbitrators to decide in an unappealable way on their dispute.
But how did we arrive at a predominantly negative connotation, which indicates jeopardization, irreparable damage, discrediting? Just think of the widespread use of expressions such as “compromised health, compromised reputation, compromised conscience, compromised quality”.
Compromising someone or compromising something has the clear meaning of injury.
And what do we think of a person ready for any compromise? We probably associate it more with mediocrity than with virtuosity. So much so that, especially in social media (the showcase of the socially desirable), we sometimes read statements like “I never compromise”.
Obviously, knowing that between saying and doing…the sea is in the middle, such ambitious declarations must be taken with a grain of salt and it would be interesting to examine the real adherence in life in all its aspects.
Most of us have our own ‘Achilles heel’ where we make compromises, even if it may be inconspicuous on the outside.
It is interesting to observe the synonyms of the word “compromise”: adaptation, accords, settlement, fallback, contract, damaged, affected, ruined, mixed up, yielding, mixture, fusion, invalidated.
While among the opposites we find the meanings: intact, safe, foreign.
Let’s just say the concept doesn’t have a good reputation, despite having its proponents.
Here you are some aphorisms that reflect the “two sides of the coin” of the compromise:
“Compromise is nothing but the sacrifice of one good or just thing made in the hope of preserving another; however, too often we end up losing both.” (Tryon Edwards) or “A compromise is perfect when everyone is dissatisfied.” (Aristide Briand)
“If you pull too much on a guitar string you will break it, but if you leave it too slack it won’t play. Learning is changing. The road to enlightenment lies in the middle way. It is the line between all extreme opposites.” (Buddha) or “A good conversation is a compromise between speaking and listening.” (Ernst Junger)
Compromise as a coping strategy
The tradeoff is in some people the usual or even preferred strategy for managing or avoiding conflicts (with themselves, with others).
In the existential field it can actually lead to defeat. If we feel we don’t have the necessary strength to achieve a goal, we can fall back and give in to something inferior to get at least something in return.
But the poor result obtained is sometimes the consequence of a too compliant position and can derive from a lack of self-confidence (and the compromise in itself in return makes us have less and less self-confidence).
Maybe if we had changed the attitude, the way of thinking, the strategy to reach the goal and the level of commitment, we would have achieved the goal and the effort to achieve it would have increased satisfaction, self-confidence and inner strength, as well as adding some new skills acquired while we were busy achieving the goal.
The problem becomes pressing when we come to the existential compromise, that is, we accept a much lower emotional state than we could have had with another choice. Many of our “I have to” (do this or that) are small or large existential compromises.
If we use one of its synonyms, come to terms, it is important to underline the difference between know how to mediate And come to terms (or compromise).
Basically, the quality of a compromiseits emotional nuance depends a lot on how conscious our choice was.
Constructive vs Destructive Compromise: Which Is Your Favorite?
Even if it has many extremely critical sides, compromise has its virtuesand it would be important to distinguish between constructive compromise and destructive compromise.
1. We can consider a constructive compromise when an agreement reached brings an improvement for the parties involved without causing damage to one of the elements (this also applies when it comes to the various parts of us in our interiority or the various parts of our lives).
2. a compromise is destructive when it involves giving up something significant of oneself, an aspect of one’s character, fundamental values, a dream, to avoid a conflict or the disapproval of the other, causing damage to one of the elements and in the long run a worsening for the related parties.
In short, the theme is complex enough, so much so that it takes up the reflections in another article.
In the meantime, after reading these lines, what reflections have come to you? What relationship do you have with compromises? What kind of compromises do you make? Share it in the comments!