Respect is Not a Compromise

I’ve spent a great deal of my life playing the people pleaser role. I try to be cognizant of the people around me and how my actions could affect them. I love finding commonalities and seeing how people can connect over similarities despite their differences. But recently I had a conversation that really hit home for me. It involved a good friend matter-of-factly explaining across my car’s console that “respect is not a compromise.”

Although I’ve spent nearly a lifetime trying to find common ground with people, it dawned on me that relationships are not entirely built on what beliefs people share. Whether it’s a family, marriage, coworker, friend, acquaintance or stranger, at some point you will have differences.

I’ll start with an easy example to illustrate this point. My husband Jesse and I have great deal in common. We love art and the creative process, adventuring the outdoors, snuggling on the couch watching Psych, music, and spending time with those we love. On the other hand, Jesse and I couldn’t have a more different opinion—even if we tried to—about pie. I associate pie with all things good—family, friends, the holidays, warming up on a chilly night, stuffing myself until I absolutely cannot eat another bite. The warm buttery crust and gooey filling can only be improved with whipped topping and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Jesse, however, sees pie as a dish disguised as dessert. He can’t stand the warm fruit filling and the flaky crust doesn’t have much of an appeal to him. The only part of pie he looks forward to is the accompanying ice cream. While I strongly disagree with his opinion, I can respect it without having to agree that his opinion is inherently right (because, let’s be honest here. Pie.)

While pie may not seem like a very heated conversation, there are plenty of interactions that can be. Pieces of our core identities often manifest themselves in our daily lives. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ living in Utah, you can bet that religion and politics (often tied together) are brought up often. When I first moved to the state, I felt enormous pressure to represent my religion and at the same time try to find compromise with people who had bad interactions with the church. While I strongly believe that any two persons can find similarities, I quickly found that I was searching for compromises on stances that couldn't have common ground. 

I think this is why my friend’s words hit me so deeply that night. “Respect is not a compromise.” It is simply acknowledging one person’s ideas as their beliefs with kindness. It doesn’t mean you have to change your beliefs; it is simply just a different set of beliefs. In Socrates last moments, it is believed that he said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I interpret this to mean that questions are meant to be asked. Answers are meant to be sought after. Truth is designed to be discovered—not by living in a perfect box of comfort, but by intentionally seeking interactions with people we disagree with, if for no other reason than to gain perspective and increase empathy.