Jay Rifenbary

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Self-Righteousness - The Demise of Compromise

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In the halls of many levels of government the lack of cooperation and compromise from differing sides of the aisle has resulted in divisiveness, animosity, anger, a potential economic disaster, and most importantly a lack of efficiency in governing. Honest public service is not allowing pride and ego to override the responsibilities and obligations to those who are to be served. Throughout history compromise has played a vital role in the progression of human achievement. Agreements, policies, treaties, and doctrines of all kinds have been created and subsequently implemented through effective compromise. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights is a prime example. There are exceptions, but genuine leadership recognizes that unifying the many outweighs the self-interest, and self-driven agendas of the few.

Compromise is a vital component in creating an atmosphere of unity, and cooperation. A lack of compromise by leadership sustains a polarization of those impacted by any decision made. This breeds greater distrust and anger as a result of the lack of inclusion of differing viewpoints and considerations. Granted, their are times when compromise is not part of the leadership equation, especially when life or death may be at stake, such as in the midst of military combat. Compromise is defined as, "a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands." Is it just me, or does that understanding appear to not resonate with many in positions of political power?

The antithesis of compromising leadership is self-righteous leadership. Self-Righteous is defined as, "confident of one's own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others." A self-righteous leader is less likely to be empathetic, inclusive, compassionate, selfless or considerate of another. Self-Righteous leadership on all levels displays arrogance and creates division within a family, organization, community, state and nation. It demeans, divides, disrespects and denigrates those who are to follow.

To compromise on an issue or a policy does not necessarily demand one to compromise on their values. For example, one can be honest and still work toward a solution that involves compromise. However, there are those issues that relate to an adherence to a certain faith, or moralistic belief that tend to generate the most emotion, and are the most challenging to compromise on. When opposing parties collide, the most beneficial and successful decisions made stem from a degree of cooperation, and some level of compromise. The more inclusive the result of a decision may be, the more unifying the role of leadership has been demonstrated.

Any successful relationship has elements of concessions and compromise. Marriage immediately comes to mind, and I have never witnessed a happy marriage, happy family, or any happy relationship that is totalitarian or dictatorial in nature. It discounts the very value of those you have a relationship with. To reach a compromise on any issue requires greater listening on both sides, and seeing a practical picture not solely an ideological one. It requires patience, perseverance, empathy and a willingness to be objective in the process of reaching a mutually beneficial, and most importantly, a fair and reasonable decision.

Of course, to compromise in regard to a violation of human rights by another person, citizenry or government is irresponsible, and should not be tolerated by any society. It is always the few, the powerful, and the extreme that destroy the many, and disintegrate the value of humanity. Compromise is never to be used as an excuse to not hold people, institutions and governments accountable for irresponsible behavior, and inhumane treatment. There has been, and continues to be, those in positions of power and leadership that recognize the destructive nature of self righteous leadership, and work to lessen its detrimental impact on the greater good. Our world would be much worse off if there were not those who fought the good fight for the many, rather than the few. As the poet Phyllis McGinley said, “Compromise, if not the spice of life, is its solidity. It is what makes nations great and marriages happy.” Be a leader of the many in your home, your community and those you influence every day.



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