Standing up for "Principle" -Part 1:
"Look at how that guy is driving. He’s right on the tail of that other car. Some people are so rude and impatient." Bart is experiencing a new phenomenon called road rage. "OK, pal," Bart said. "I’m going to show you what it feels like to have someone ride your tail." With that, Bart pulls within two feet of the rude driver’s bumper.
The rude driver’s car slows down and then speeds up, but Bart stays right on his tail. About seven miles later, the rude driver pulls off to the side of the road. Bart stubbornly pulls off the road behind him and pops open his trunk.
Bart keeps his headlights shining on the car in front as two men get out. Blinded by the headlights, the two men hear, "Hold it right there. Don’t move." Moments later, Bart shoots and kills one of the men with the compound bow he had in his trunk. Bart, a former church Elder, was sent to prison for murder.
In a TV interview, a defiant Bart said he shot the man in order to defend his wife (who had since divorced him). He said it was a matter of principle and he was simply standing up for his rights. During the interview Bart was asked, "If you had a chance to do it all over again, would you handle it differently?" Stubbornly, Bart said he would not apologize for defending his wife. He considers himself a political prisoner because he was imprisoned for standing up for his rights.
Can you see a little bit of Bart inside of you? Have you ever stubbornly fought over a "principle?" If you carefully study the history books, you will find there has been a tremendous amount of death and destruction resulting from reckless fights over principles. There are times when it is worth fighting over principles and there are times when it is not. Knowing how to determine the difference will save you a great deal of grief and loss.
When you look at the grand scheme of things, most fights over principles are not worth the high cost it extracts. Yet, there are certain times when it is important for you to stand up and fight for what is right. How, then, do you determine the appropriate time to fight? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question. There are, however, some basic guidelines that can direct you. When you are considering engaging in a fight, you should ask what the ultimate impact would be on you. The areas you should consider are:
-What impact will this conflict have on your resources?
-What impact will this conflict have on your attitude and emotional well-being?
-Will engaging in the confrontation help focus your desire to follow God’s will or will it be a distraction?
Most people do not consider the impact a confrontation will have on them. All confrontations cost you something. Even if you are totally in the "right," the price of engaging in the fight may be higher than the issue is worth. Someone once said, "Choose your battles carefully. A bulldog can beat a skunk anytime, but it’s just not worth it."
My former boss wanted his new lawn to be perfect so he had it hydro-seeded (a paste consisting of grass seed and fertilizer). The company told him that having his lawn seeded a day or two before it rained would provide the seed a good watering. "Don’t worry about the seeds washing away," he was told, "We guarantee to replace it if it does." So, watching the weather forecast, he had his lawn sprayed a couple days before it was going to rain. Unfortunately, the rainstorm washed the seeds away.
When he called the seeding company he was told the guarantee does not cover "Acts of God." Dumbfounded, my former boss said, "This was not a tornado, it was only a rainstorm. What good is your guarantee if it doesn’t cover this." The seeding company said they would be willing to re-seed it for half of the original price. Outraged they would not stand by their guarantee, he sued them. When his wife told him it would cost him much more to sue them than it would to re-seed the lawn, he said, "It was a matter of principle."
To his surprise, the courts ruled against him. Part of the ruling required him to pay the seeding company’s legal cost. So, besides not having a lawn, he now had to pay them $2,000, plus his own legal costs. As he was writing out the check, his wife asked him if his principles were worth the $2,000? Begrudgingly, he had to admit the fight really wasn’t worth it.
Financial loss is not the only impact conflicts have on our resources. There are many other areas that suffer loss. In fact, losses in these areas are usually more destructive than the loss of money. Confrontations consume time, physical energy, and creative energy.
Think about the last major confrontation in which you were involved. Try to add up the total amount of time you had spent on this project, including all of you time you spent thinking about it. Most likely, it was probably dozensof hours. These are hours that had to be pulled from your family or spiritual life.
Conflicts, of course, are usually very emotionally draining. The longer it carries on, the more it saps your energy. Usually after a long day of work, our energy reserves are low. Even without conflicts, most of us barely have enough energy for our mates, kids, etc. How many times have our mates or kids asked us to do something with them, only to have us say, "Oh, I’m too tired for that." If you consume a great deal of energy on a fight, what will you have left for your family or your spiritual life?
Engaging in a fight not only consumes a great deal of time and energy, it also consumes creative energy. Unfortunately, most of us do not have large reserves of surplus creative energy. It is the creative energy that prompts us to do those special unique things for our mate and children. For example, I did many creative things for Janet before we got married. Janet found her "promise ring" inside a box of Cracker Jacks. When Janet opened up her fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant, she found the message "Janet, I love you, Mike." (This was the first time I had told her I loved her.) When Janet got near the end of her meal at a fancy restaurant, she found the following words printed on the plates, "Janet, will you marry me? Mike." A few weeks later I asked her to make some brownies. As she cracked open an egg, she found her engagement ring. (It took me 10 hours to prepare the egg.)
Shortly before we got married, I started working for the Deputy Director of Corrections. While I was working for him, I created a large number of computer projects for the Department. Unfortunately I consumed most of my creative energy on these computer projects. After we were married, I had very little creative energy for these special expressions of love. I also had little creative energy for the many missionary projects I used to work on.
The reason I bring this up is to show how limited our resources are. This is one reason I have chosen not to pursue an executive management position. My years of working in the Deputy Director’s office have shown me the hidden costs associated with some of these positions. Don’t get me wrong; I am not criticizing those in these positions. There are some great Christians in these positions who have done a good job keeping their families first. Unfortunately, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
I have seen many families destroyed because people have drained all of their resources fighting a violation. After the fight they didn’t have anything left for their families. Usually, a person is not aware he is not providing the necessary resources for his family and spiritual life. This "starvation" is usually a slow and gradual process. Fighting for "principles" is a silent killer, much in the same way that cholesterol is a silent killer. Often, by the time you realize you have a cholesterol problem, a lot of damage has been done. Likewise, you may not fully realize the true cost of a battle until it is too late.
If you are like most people, you get paid every two weeks. Since many people have never learned to budget their money, they start running low on money near the end of the second week. What do you think would happen if these people only got paid once a year? Most likely, they would spend the money too quickly and not have any money left near the end of the year. If they did spend the money too fast, something will suffer. The money will come from somewhere. In this situation, there will probably be some hungry and cold family members.
Likewise, you only have X amount of time, energy, and creativity. Since most of it is already spoken for, you will have very little "surplus" resources left. Therefore, if you don’t carefully limit the number of battles you undertake, you will rob your family and spiritual life of its needed resources.
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