Compromise & Culture

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My husband and I went to a marriage workshop that taught us seeking “compromise” always leaves one partner “losing” with lingering dissatisfaction in the relationship. The problem with losing relational negotiations is that it is hard to change once a precedent has been set. It becomes a pattern of the relationship. “The way we do things around here” is also known as culture. Every family develops a culture based on who usually wins and who loses . . . and how that is done.

Instead of compromise to settle marital challenges, we were encouraged to seek win-win solutions so that neither party grows weary of losing, and both parties win every time. To do this, we must have an orientation that prioritizes the other’s wellbeing.

The principle of compromise is deeply embedded in our culture, codes, and conduct. We believe that compromise is a just resolution to differences. Often, however, this value of compromise simply camouflages the dehumanization of the vulnerable. This dynamic is demonstrated in both individual and group relations. If we look at the larger context of ethnic/racial group relationships in the United States of America, we can see a nation built on compromises that have harmed Black people and other people of color. 

From the beginning, our laws benefited white males who’ve held most of the power, and still do. The solution that was most profitable for white land-owning men was frequently chosen by leaders at every level. Even to the great harm of other people groups, Black, Asian, Indigenous, and Lantinx people (the last two were in North America originally), and women of all ethnicities, but especially dark-skinned women are abused and unprotected from our beginning. Our forefathers were people of cauterized conscience.

It is easy to lay the blame on the forefathers whose main interest was in protecting themselves. But today, we still have not taken responsibility to change. Police kill a person of color for minor traffic violations. Meanwhile, a white mass shooter gets a bulletproof vest and a meal on the way to jail. We do little to change. We continue living on in the precedent of compromise. We are still a people of cauterized conscience.

Why haven’t we changed yet?  One phenomenon that can help us is revealed in research. Preference for “ingroup members” is common to every human culture throughout time. The abuse, exploitation, and oppression of outgroup members is the flip side of the coin of ingroup preservation, protection, and promotion. Where communication is limited, so is friendship.  In the absence of friendship, we respond to difference with fear, avoidance, and reacting to “fight or flight” instincts.

Relationally speaking, compromise gets us accustomed to depriving and defrauding one another of the honor each deserves as image-bearers of our Creator. 

We are specifically instructed by Jesus “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT).  Meanwhile, recognizing the cultural ways we have grown up with is difficult because we see these as “normal.”  However, as Christ-followers, it is our first responsibility to examine every way we came to believe and behave before accepting Christ in light of His words, and example. 

The “redeemed” are individually and collectively called to restoration instead of self-serving cultural habits. We can tenderize our souls and rebuild our consciences by honoring others. We learn to honor the “Image of God” in every human by reconciling to God. He empowers us to reconcile with each other by laying down our own preferences (idols).

Honor eliminates compromise in favor of working for win-win restoration.  

By Doc Courage

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