I was listening to Radio National the other morning – which is one of life’s great pleasures for me – and pricked my ears up as I heard the philosopher Avishai Margalit interviewed about his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. The book is really about political compromises, not personal compromises, but it got me thinking. Particularly this quote, ‘We should, I believe, be judged by our compromises more than by our ideals and norms. Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be. But compromises tell us who we are.’
This makes utter sense to me. It’s easy to be impressed by a person’s or a group’s stated ideals and values, but when and where they compromise is a much truer measure of what really matters to the person or group. Avishai Margalit doesn’t see compromise as a good or bad thing, but he talks about compromises that actually help work towards peace and those that should never be made (they’re the rotten ones!) because of the damage they cause. So, as we hurtle towards the festive season, maybe a little compromise should be on the menu (as well as free range turkey and biodynamic pork!)
No-one in my family gets too fussed about Christmas; no-one has hard and fast rules that must be obeyed, or Christmas traditions that have to be adhered to. (Actually that’s not true. My dad insists that he is the only one capable of buying a decent ham and the only one who can cook a traditional Christmas pudding. Needless to say, none of us has tried to change his opinion…and he does make great puddings.) But, I have friends who are turning themselves and their families inside out to attend every gathering, to keep everyone happy, to ‘have a really, really good Christmas’ (said through gritted teeth)…etc…etc. Might be worth a moment’s thought about what really matters and what can be compromised on?
Peace and kind thoughts, Rachel