Compromise, or Compromising?

September 16, 2013

in Change, Communication

In his teaching on Acts 21 today, my pastor said about verses 21-26 “we would rather walk in compromise than confront error”.

What Paul did in verse 26 was not wrong, but it failed to address a problem he’d been fighting for some time. Maybe he was tired of the battle, maybe he was trying a new tactic, but whatever the reason, it seems he compromised.

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We do this all the time, including in our marriages. We don’t feel like dealing with something, so we compromise. We don’t want another argument, so we give in. We just want some peace, so we go along. What we do may not be wrong, but it fails to deal with an on-going issue that needs to be resolved.

While these kinds of compromises may bring about temporary peace, it makes the problem worse because it looks like we don’t really care. Putting something off tends to make it grow, and at the very least we weaken our “right” to complain. When we put up with something for a while it becomes difficult to say “No more”. Even if we do say “enough”, our past going along makes it look as if we’ve changed our mind and are now unhappy with something we once thought was okay.

The classic example of this is the man who says very little about sex being too infrequent. He doesn’t want to be “that guy”, or he feels guilty, or he doesn’t want the fight. Maybe he brought it up in the past and got an earful, or the silent treatment, or even less sex, so he stopped mentioning it. He may make little comments to hint he’s unhappy, but he doesn’t directly address the issue.

Then, after months or years, he “suddenly” tells his wife he’s had it and he wants more sex. Aside from the fact he’s prolonged the problem, he’s given his wife good reason to think he’s okay with their sex life. He may argue she should have known, or did know, but his silence speaks loudly. He’s given her a reason to ignore his complaint.  Even if she decides to change, it’s now a long-term habit, making it more difficult to change.

Of course, this happens in many areas of marriage. Sometimes the issue seems minor because it happens rarely. Other times it’s minor next to bigger problems, so it gets ignored. Sometimes the irritation level grows over time and something that was no big deal becomes a problem.

If you decide to discuss something you’ve been compromising on or ignoring, I think it’s a good plan to address why you’re doing it now after ignoring it or going along.

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6 comments
BecomingHisEve
BecomingHisEve

I was just reading an article the other day about how women need to ask for what they want in the bedroom more frequently. I think this is a big issue for couples: one or both partners being unhappy with status quo and being unable to open up or unwilling to open up to talk about sex. 


My husband & I are very verbal about what we like and dislike, if we want to try something new, if we have an issue in the bedroom, if we've gone too long without sex, and if something is painful or pleasurable, but it didn't always used to be that way. In fact, I didn't even really enjoy sex until a year & a half into our marriage. I had stayed silent, being afraid to speak up and hurt my husband by wanting to abstain or not have sex as frequently. This obviously hurt us outside the bedroom as I didn't just not talk about sex, but many other things as well. Once we finally sat down to talk, barriers were dropped and I finally embraced the freedom & joy of having sex with my husband, and this began to affect every other area of our marriage (spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically - beyond just sex). I still struggle with those tendencies but it's a lot easier for me to speak up than I used to - and this is a wonderful blessing in our marriage! 

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@BecomingHisEve It is sad that so many couples cannot talk openly about sex. All the fear and shame stuff can make it difficult, but it is worth getting past it!

janna94
janna94

Why do so many assume someone is compromising and it's in error? When I read that passage in Acts, why can't that have been a Spirit led answer? If one is not allowed to worship God through the practices God Himself laid out for His chosen people to do, aren't we "Gentiles" being just as legalistic and Pharisaical as we claim a certain sect of Jews were?

(Paul, I have not personally seen you advise what I'm speaking about next but it's common on the TMB boards.)

When we take this to marriage, if someone chooses not to take a harsh step of confrontation and then the "offending" spouse doesn't seem to jump on the demands given, and then the spouse who is frustrated doesn't kick the other out of the bed, or out of the bedroom, because "you aren't acting married.", there seems to be much more of a legalistic, judgemental attitude from these "free" Christians. Who are we to say that the Spirit has not led that husband or wife to remain quiet for the time, to work on the sins in their own life, and remove their own plank before their spouses speck? Who are we to say that the Spirit is not saying " lay your 'life' down" right now, and show grace, love and forgiveness? But too many of us who are "free", are trying to put "burdensome laws" around others necks because we think that is the "right" way to handle it.

I hope you see the connection to what you wrote, because it connected in my mind.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@janna94 The idea that one had to follow the law to be a Christian is an error, so by definition he choose not to confront that error in what he did. Was he following the Holy Spirit? Could be. His choice did lead to his arrest, which the Spirit had told him would happen. 

Of course saying nothing for a time could be the right thing. I gave examples where the motivation was not right. Still, silence is usually seen as agreement, and that can be a problem. My usual choice would be to say something so it is clear where I stand, then back off and give it time. This avoids the appearance of agreeing.

cej
cej

@TheGenerousHusband @janna94

.02 for what it's worth:

It all boils down to motive.  If the motive for compromising is selfish - you don't enjoy uncomfortable conversation or you don't want to make any bigger waves in the relationship - then it is sinful on your part for not confronting.

It's not loving to leave anyone in a pattern of behavior that is sinful because sin is so destructive.  Sin brings death.  It's destructive to the offender's relationship with God and to the relationship he/she has with the one they've offended - slowly killing those relationships.  In fact, someone who's in a pattern of sin probably doesn't feel too good about them self either.  It's not in anyone's best interest to have their sin overlooked.

(Matthew 18:15) “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."

The Greek translation of "gain your brother" is to win him from alienation and from the consequences of his fault.  And THAT is love - the right motive and THE purpose for confrontation.  (The purpose for confrontation should never be to try to make someone else behave the way you want them to - for your own benefit.)

Confronting someone's sin isn't about "obeying the Law", it's about love.  And, Love fulfills the Law.

If your motive is love it would also affect the way you choose to confront. "It not what you say, but rather how you say it."  I don't think "a harsh step of confrontation" goes over well with anyone.  The purpose of a harsh confrontation is just to release anger. And it's not done in humility.  Since "It takes two to tango", humility examines himself, confessing his part of the tango (the plank in his own eye) first.

"Laying down our life, and showing grace, love and forgiveness" is not the opposite of confrontation.  It's part of confrontation.

(And of course, a one-time offense is a different story.  By all means extend grace!)

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