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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When we write, we scratch out a little truth that attempts to convey our interpretation both of an inner world that we possess and of an outer world in which we live. Combining the two worlds of truth to let them fluently flow from mind through print is, at times, very difficult. Conflicts arise between our present beliefs and our present state of affairs. Then, we question ourselves and our core understandings as we attempt to interpret an idea. When two interpretations of truth clash, sometimes the writer becomes a stone wall, strong in defending his beliefs. This approach will be met with solid resistance, even if it is sound. Why? We do not argue known facts or trite opinions; we argue that which has substantial intelligent opposition. To do otherwise would be to lower our image. So, many times we choose to compromise.Compromise is a basic negotiation process in which both parties give up something that they want in order to get something else they want more. Compromises usually occur in win-lose situations -- when there is a fixed pie to be divided up, and whatever one side gets, the other side loses. Ideas that cut to the core of an individual's or group's identity or survival are particularly tough to compromise. Two things that usually are not compromised are values and fundamental human needs. Yet, without compromise of values, many single couples would be ostracized for living together. Likewise, without compromise of needs, such as independence, motorists would never be ticketed for not wearing their safety belts. Tolerating something new involves re-balancing our wheels or even surrendering an entire vehicle of thoughtful conveyance. To allow concessions to the opposition eventually strengthens our position in a true argument (remember, some things are just not worthy of being argued). Giving in can enhance our grace and raise our credibility. Imagine a few examples from recent history. What if President Clinton would have first admitted to "having sex with that woman"? What if Pete Rose had first come clean to betting on baseball? What is Mark McGuire had first admitted to steroid use? What if George W. Bush first admitted he had no credible evidence of "weapons of mass destruction" stockpiled in Iraq? Many reasons entered into each person's decision to embrace an initial lie: public image, criminal charges, popular support. But, in each case, the personality chose to embrace his inner interpretation of a preferred truth over society's eventual view. No surrender to or embrace of the opposition was offered, or, at least, offered in time to save the person's credibility. History is harsh on a liar, even if the lie is meant to benefit others. Complicity is viewed as illegal and dishonest in every court of the land. Then, we may best be served by minding inner and outer truths when we write. Our adherence to inner truths helps develop strong voice and unique style while our mindfulness of outer truths serves witness to our knowledge of the subject and our acknowledgement of a changing society.Striking sparks when a proper blend is found, we then write with power and conviction. How do most verbal arguments proceed? First, the opponents loudly state their positions; then, they air a tirade of ideas largely void of logical support; and finally, they realize a real solution would require equal shares of compromise so they merely leave the battleground in a heated huff. Seldom is such an exchange viewed as an opportunity to enhance each person's experience of the relationship. After all, even best friends cannot and do not agree upon everything. To concede to well-supported ideas is not to admit total defeat. The military saying is "losing a battle does not constitute losing a war." However, we have become so ingrained with the slogan "winning is all" that we have made it override common sense. Using that philosophy, people have no margin for loss; instead, they view loss with shame and anger. Without loss, improved performance is impossible. How can perfection be further perfected? Vulnerable to danger and suspicion, people who compromise are often falsely viewed as cowards. The United States Constitution and has been called "a bundle of compromises." Compromise in man's relationships with each other is a necessary means of living together in an imperfect society. This compromise involves mutual concession, not total surrender. A human being must decide what areas of life are most important, and what areas of life, work, or relationships can be more flexibly constructed. The phrase, "pick your battles," applies well to the understanding of compromise. Compromising does not mean to become flimsy and weakened in ethical control. Writing, then, requires a survey of our audience, an appeal to their senses, and support for our own positions. More support is required for unpopular stands because of the nature of their controversy. At best, our writing may reach compromise, and that partial surrender should often be our goal of communication. I'm reminded of a couple of verses from John Prine's song "The Great Compromise." In the song, the speaker becomes a "victim of the great compromise." "Well we'd go out on Saturday evenings To the drive-in on Route 41 And it was there that I first suspected That she was doin' what she'd already done She said "Johnny won't you get me some popcorn" And she knew I had to walk pretty far And as soon as I passed through the moonlight She hopped into a foreign sports car Well you know I could have beat up that fellow But it was her that had hopped into his car Many times I'd fought to protect her But this time she was goin' too far Now some folks they call me a coward 'Cause I left her at the drive-in that night But I'd druther have names thrown at me Than to fight for a thing that ain't right"
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