Saturday, January 12, 2013

Compromise (ugh)

I've been pondering the word compromise lately. Truly, it is a word that our culture despises. Compromise seems to imply giving up in the sense that (a) we give up something in order to “get along with” or “move forward with” someone else, and (b) we quit fighting and bow to another’s wishes or demands. We give up. We quit. We lose. And in our heated, competitive culture, losing is not an option.

I’ve been reflecting on that word; looking at the history of the word. I plan to write a future post reflecting further on this word and what it really means, and what it can mean. For now I want to share a related anecdote. Yesterday I responded to commenter on a post by Rachel Held Evans about Louis Giglio. It was a civil exchange; someone asked a question and I provided my own experience as an example to answer the question.  Then another commenter wrote a response to me: 
Just want to say how much I appreciate that maturity. I can't begin to imagine what you have gone through. While I believe gay sex is sin and therefore wish that you had chosen a different lifestyle (I'm probably assuming a lot here) I believe that if you are prayerfully making your choices in good conscience I will have the privilege of seeing you in heaven where we will get all of this sorted out!
Let me share with you my first, visceral reaction to this comment: I saw the word “lifestyle” and I immediately got angry. I couldn’t see the rest of the comment after I read that word. What, do you mean my lifestyle of getting up in the morning, going to work, eating, drinking, sleeping, looking for happiness, and trying to be a good person? I didn’t respond right away. I took a deep breath and just let it sit. This person did compliment me on my “maturity” after all, so I hung on to that.

Then, in the next 5-10 seconds, when I stopped reading and just skimmed the rest of the comment. My mind interpreted the comment to read: “if you prayerfully consider changing, then I’m sure to see you in heaven!” RWOAR! Shoopy angry! Shoopy smash! I still didn't respond.

But a funny thing happened. I re-read the comment myself this morning, more carefully. It was much more graceful than I remembered. Even the phrase I was angry about (“wish that you had chosen a different lifestyle”), the commenter self-corrected and admitted “I’m probably assuming a lot here”.

The point is, when I let my initial visceral reaction just sit for a little while, and came back to the comment and really read it…I realized this person was trying to reach out. This person was trying to engage without “losing” their own convictions or identity. They were, in fact, trying to compromise. (If you are having trouble seeing this interpretation, read the comment again, and imagine that you have grown up being taught that being gay is the worst sin against God and against human nature. Having grown up in that culture, I know what it means to even begin to engage the thought that homosexuals might not be damaged, sinful people.) Maybe instead of losing, quitting, or giving up, compromise can simply mean having an open heart.

I’m still wrestling with the concept, and perhaps “compromise” is the wrong word to use. But I still plan to reflect on the word and maybe even try to redeem the word from its more sinister meanings.

1 comment:

Ordinary Hero said...

I loved reading your processing of the seven stages of internet interaction. I've gone through the same feelings. Because I had no emotional investment in the response you received, I read the comment the first time as from someone who, despite clinging to long-held ideas or convictions, still wanted to meet you halfway. They still not only gave you consideration and respect, but acknowledged their own potential fallibility. It's an incredibly rare thing (in my experience) to have someone reply like that on the interwebs. It's like seeing a giant squid: we know they must exist by the evidence, but almost no one has ever crossed paths with one. It's nice to know people I disagree with can still be nice people.