Saturday, July 26, 2014

What's in a word?

Have you ever thought about how hard it would be to learn English as a second language? Sure, you could learn the basics: verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections...(yes, I had to look up the last two because although I use them all the time, I wouldn't recognize them by their "proper" names). But knowing the basics and putting them to use are completely different.

There are so many nuances in the English language. Think with me of the words that look and sound the same but have completely different meanings depending on the tense, context, inflection, etc.

  • Break (take a break, break a pencil, brakes on your car)
  • Fire (something is burning or you lost your job)
  • Tear (tear a piece of paper, tear through your work, tear up at a sad movie)
  • Favor (prefer one thing over another, gift from a party, doing a service for someone else)
  • Love (context: I love my mom v. I love pizza)
  • Like (appreciate something, make a comparison, give a thumbs-up on Facebook)

One particular word is at the forefront of my mind these days: compromise. It's important to understand when it is appropriate to compromise with someone when you are at odds and when it is important that you do not allow yourself to be compromised. The dictionary offers the following definitions for compromise:

  • a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims(...)by reciprocal modification of demands
  • an endangering, especially of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.

In our relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, we learn the value of serving and putting the other person before ourselves. That is not to say we shrink back and refuse to communicate our likes, interests, and preferences. In fact, I find it to be more meaningful to compromise than to always get my way. If someone were to always let me choose, I wouldn't appreciate it as much as talking through how we can work it out so that we either both have the opportunity to get what we want at different times or brainstorm to find a solution we both agree on. We should not be surprised at or walk away from relationships where two people do not agree on everything. In fact, this is the perfect time to perfect your compromise muscle (like how I threw in that extra one?).

You cross a dangerous line, though, when you allow your faith, morals, or safety to be compromised. When you are in a relationship where you feel you must always set aside your beliefs, needs, and comfort to make sure the other person is happy (read: not going to walk away, manipulate, or hurt you physically or verbally), you put yourself in a compromising situation. 

While we should not run from disagreements (since no two people will always agree on everything), the Bible advises us to avoid quarrelsome people who look for any reason to start a fight (Proverbs 26:21). You know those people - they like to start arguments for argument's sake. They enjoy "stirring the pot" or throwing in a verbal grenade and watching others get into a heated discussion (aka argument). These are people we should not befriend.

The Bible talks a lot about quarrelsome people. When we familiarize ourselves with the indicators of these types of people, we learn discernment and can make wise decisions regarding who we allow into our inner circle. 

The Bible also talks about what our lives should look like when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. Galatians 5:22-23 lays out the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When two people in a friendship or relationship seek to bear these types of fruit, compromise should be relatively easy (and even exciting) as they watch the Holy Spirit work through them.

So be wise in who you associate with. Learn when to compromise and when not to compromise.

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