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  • Gary Borland

#62 Compromise

Are your compromises intentional or unintentional?

If someone asked in which areas of your life there were compromises, it may take some time to really answer the question fully. This is not a straightforward question. If it seems to be straightforward, you may find benefit in spending some time really examining the depth of the question, and the complexity of uncovering meaningful insights that may have life changing implications.

For some, making concessions is compromise. For others, it might involve negotiated outcomes, bargaining, trade-off, give and take, or sacrifice. It could be about making adjustments, appeasing someone, moderation and so on. Unless we examine the ways in which compromise is outworked in our lives, the potentially significant impact on our fulfilment, wellbeing and future may go unnoticed.

Compromise comes in many forms, but it’s important to any inquiry to consider if the compromise is ‘with’ yourself or ‘with’ someone else. And then to consider if the compromise is ‘for’ you or ‘for’ someone else. Separating each of those out can be challenging and likely to require an ongoing inquiry.

Focusing on ‘with’ and ‘for’ creates an important part of context for the inquiry and is likely to assist in identifying areas of your life where compromise is at play. Compromise is not necessarily good or bad, right or wrong, but where it exists, it’s likely to be having an impact on aspects of your life. Some of these impacts may be positive and others less so, but whatever the impact, if unnoticed or unexamined, it’s likely that choice is not available to you.

There are countless circumstances in which compromise may be at play. The more you look, the more you’re likely to notice. To illustrate, here’s an example of a potential compromise involving ‘with’ and ‘for’:

  • You would love to have a different job, but the money is less, and you have a lifestyle that you don’t want to give up. In this case, you have compromised ‘with’ yourself by not pursuing fulfilment and satisfaction to protect the lifestyle you have.  

  • If you examine this example further and ask who the compromise is ‘for’, you might realise that your partner likes the lifestyle you both have and isn’t prepared to give it up. So, you stay in your job ‘for’  your partner.

Digging deeper, beyond who the compromises are ‘with’ and ‘for’,  can be revealing. Considering ‘why’ we make compromises may offer increasing levels of choice in our lives. This example illustrates the ‘why’ of a compromise:

  • You have a promising career but don’t enjoy what you do. Change would mean a perceived reduction in social status, a house move and social disruption. You change nothing. The compromise is ‘with’ yourself, but in this case, the ‘for’ and the ‘why’ are very closely linked. A parent always wanted you to follow a particular career path and continues to emphasise how important it is that you excel in the career you’re in. In this example, the ‘for’ is the parent and ‘why’ is perhaps to avoid letting them down, or at some level, being a disappointment to them. In this example, the compromise may not necessarily be obvious until late in your career when a crushing lack of fulfilment begins to take over.

Compromise can show up in many parts of life and can come with both benefits and setbacks. We are all likely to be living intentionally or unintentionally with compromises. Only by having the courage to examine them can we begin to live in the fullness of who we were born to be.   


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