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Principles and Personalities
Which way to go?
A wiser man than me once told me to place my principles before personalities. I still am not sure I know exactly what he meant. At first blush it makes sense. The idea of placing rightly held principles of living above that of the personalities involved in any situation. Kind of like the words from the old country western song “if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything”. It suggests the wise instruction we hopefully received as a youth “if Billy your friend ran in front of a train would you follow him”. Of course this was made when we were being scolded for doing something wrong just because all the other kids did it.
So I would like to pause in front of the mirror and pride myself in standing for some principles that I hold dear. I would like my children say in my passing, dad stood for….. That is what men that I respect did with their lives. I want to follow suit. Or do I?
Let us examine the notion of standing tall and unbendable for ideals that we hold dear. Perhaps it is not all it is cracked up to be. Perhaps it leads to more destruction than construction.
Standing tall sure sounds romantic in this song.
Perhaps more standing up for each other and less for ourselves
When worlds collide.
Know that this here is just a natural hard won fact: My home is a peace zone. I neither cotton nor tolerate nor abide by any sort of violence in my home. That is a very difficult thing to achieve. You simply cannot use any sort of violence to establish a peace zone. When I speak of violence I include harsh and hurting use of words. Certainly nothing physical including ugly behavior. It has taken a whole lot of patience and civil discourse to accomplish this reality.
Now just the other day a member of our home engaged in totally unacceptable discourteous behavior. A type of behavior that if allowed would eventually cause great discord and the building of resentments. The behavior occurred outside of the home. And when that member arrived home they deserved a great tongue lashing and a brutal wake up call to the reality of living as a family. And that job belonged to me.
Well there it was. Two competing ideals. In this case the peace and serenity of the home won out. In weighing the competing ideals it was determined that standing up and tall and forceful was secondary to maintaining peace between the personalities involved. We place personalities above principles. And here is the outcome. The offender became contrite and apologetic for the despicable behavior. There was really no need to be bombastic, harsh or dictatorial. The bending whispering Willow was in this case stronger than any Oak could have been.
So we begin to question this notion of unwavering principles.
How about you?
Do you sleep better at night when you have forced your ideals on someone else?
Right or Wrong she stands by me.
Even mountains will crumble to the sea
Because you are soft to the world, does not make you soft.
There was a time when this author walked a few miles in the shoes of a preacher man. And so it came to pass that a few of the members of the Great Generation came to a point of wanting to talk to a man learned in the ways of religion. Do not go to fast here we are not referring here to a preacher man with the formality of the Holy Orders and Last Rites. Just a friend to discuss the closing out of a few of life’s accounts with sincerity. Someone to bounce questions off of and to vent. As strange as it sounds they were kind of looking for an appraisal of the value of their life. To a one they had come to list in the category of liabilities, relationships. They were not so much looking at failures there as regrets as they were questioning the appropriateness of their priorities. Should they have put their personal values above the value of maintaining relationships?
My gut reaction to this issue relates to how I was raised. If a relationship requires you to violate your own principles it is not a relationship worth having. That makes perfect sense doesn’t it? My mother and my father held that view while raising us children. We lived by it.
Please hold this thought.
A really good wife, mom and child of God.
There is a great gal who 100% lives by the above concept in her personal and business relationships. A rudeness or a slight or a broken promise and that is that, the relationship is kaput. I must say she does not have too many friends but she is extremely principled. There is no one who I would trust more in keeping their word. Let us be clear here, there was absolutely no compromise of her values. She even had strained relationships with her family of origin, or no relationship.
Then two relationships happened to her and then a third. First she got married. Then she found and nurtured a relationship with God. And then she had a child. Well quite quickly each of those relationships challenged her previously held principles. But her vows and commitment to those relationships and the love she had eventually caused her to compromise. Something tells me she will not regret her decisions.
Can Peace be an Ideal?
Oh if it were so that I could live in a black and white world.
The Ten Commandments are really cool. They are straightforward rules to live by. We would say that they are written in stone. They are fast and true. They are the basis for so many good and orderly standards of conduct by which to live. And the Golden Rule is likewise a clear and concise statement of how we are to live. We should follow these guiding principles. We should follow them like they are sacrosanct and written in stone.
Oops, Houston we may have a problem. A crazed gunman walks into a room and starts shooting innocent people. There is a loaded gun next to me. The gunman does not see me or the gun. He just reloaded and has twenty more targets trapped. I have a clear shot at him with the gun. THOU SHALL NOT KILL. There it is as plain as day. In order to save twenty innocent I must kill one who is clearly evil. But I am a man of principle and one of my principles is clearly never to kill. I will not bend that rule. I will stand hard and fast on my principle and let other people die, but at least I upheld my principles. Not damned likely. That dude is one dead dude. And I do not even have the principle of putting people before principles.
Make it less traumatic. My daughter comes home two hours after her curfew. Rules are rules in my house and abiding by well set out rules that are there for the betterment of the home is a must. The punishment is two weeks grounded and that was well established and understood and known. She willfully without excuse violated the rules knowing beforehand the consequences. No problem right? I must stand by my principles of discipline and obedience. I cannot waiver on this, I must be the Oak tree.
Senior Prom is in one week. I must stand on my principles and estrange my daughter from me for the next decade. I must stand rigid and cause my daughter to miss a very important rite of passage and building of memories she will never forget? Not damned likely.
Perhaps your scenarios end up differently.
Mine is not to judge. I cannot say what is right for someone else in the above circumstances. But back to that thought I asked you to hold onto. I am afraid that what my parents taught me they lived by. They were not hypocrites. And I am here to tell you that they both went to their graves with dire regrets. It does not change that they lived good lives. Due to Grace it probably does not even change their relationship with God. But it changed forever their relationships with others.
Do we place principles before personalities? Yes we do. And I think we should in the day to day mundane carrying on of life. But there is one principle that raises itself above all others. Love thy neighbor as thyself. In this we find compassion and forgiveness and understanding enough that we should bring our actions into conformity with the principle. And in the final analysis, that means to place people above principles.