IN OUR FAMILY, we have a running joke that if someone wants something and isn’t willing to compromise, we call them Veruca Salt. Veruca, as you may remember, is the girl from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory who made repeated demands of her father. When he tried to compromise with her regarding her demands, her response was always, “No, Daddy. I want it now!” End of story. And, in the end, her inability to budge on things did not end well for her.
As a parent, I’m well aware of the art of compromise. I like to think I have become somewhat good at it, seeing that I’ve been doing it for over 24 years. In fact, I think it’s something that most parents are well versed in.
A Battle of Wills
Now, I’m not saying my kids have ever demanded a golden goose or all the other things Veruca wanted, but there certainly have been times when they have been less than willing to meet me and their dad halfway. Those things have ranged from clothes to chores to curfews and many things in between. The results have been tantrums and meltdowns when they were little. And as they got older, they began using their words to express their unwillingness to yield to whatever was standing in the way of them getting what they wanted. The result? Oftentimes yelling or silence, slammed doors, or hurt feelings.
Before you think I am recusing myself from being guilty of digging my heels in on something and being unwilling to give even an inch, I’m most certainly not. Sometimes there have been good reasons for that, such as their safety. Other times, I’m sorry to say that I think it was more out of the principle that I was the parent and, therefore, right. We probably can all admit to that, can’t we? But what I do know for certain is that the times when both of us refuse to meet somewhere in the middle, we both remain stuck and unhappy. On the flip side, when we each give a little, we usually manage to come up with a solution that works for both of us.
The Bigger Picture
It’s not only parenting that has taught me about the need to compromise, though. My marriage has certainly been an ongoing journey of learning to meet each other halfway. And my job requires a constant practice of give-and-take. The result is often a better solution than if either side had demanded his or her way.
Unfortunately, these days, compromise is something that seems completely foreign to most people. Whether the subject be the Church, politics, COVID-19, education, or any number of other topics, we just can’t seem to find some common ground. We dig in our heels and engage in an endless tug-of-war. I’m right; you’re wrong. If I compromise, I lose and you win. The result is much like the situation with my kids: yelling or silence, closed minds, hateful words, and hurt feelings.
The only answer, if we want to change things or make progress on anything we care about, is to meet somewhere in the middle. I’m willing—are you? I’ll meet you halfway.