“Can’t we just compromise, Mom?” snarled the teenage girl.
“We can compromise on a curfew, on how often you clear the table, on when you can take the car,” replied the mother, “but we cannot compromise on how you answer me. You will answer with respect.”
Repeat after me: You will not get your way every time. Some issues are zero-sum games, and some are not, but no one always gets exactly what they want. This is perhaps especially true in politics.
When laws are made, someone is almost always disappointed. A young, inexperienced legislator promises to deliver a policy, only to arrive at the Capitol to discover that other people want something that is diametrically opposed. Part of growth—as a legislator, and as a person—is learning the dance where one person takes a step toward the middle and the other person does the same. It often takes numerous repetitions. In the end, they meet in that middle, and neither is completely satisfied, but both have accomplished a bit of their platform. That’s compromise.
That works for curfew, clearing the table, and dividing up driving time. Everyone can give a little. But there are some things that are a matter of conscience or deeply held beliefs. Just as the mother in the anecdote above would take nothing less than a respectful answer from her teenager, lawmakers may also hit a point of conscience where any compromise is anathema.
That’s when the relationships built through previous compromises allow both parties to talk and perhaps find a solution both can at least tolerate.
Support our new Congress. Pray for them, follow them, and tweet or post. Even try email. Tell them you appreciate their efforts to compromise without bruising their conscience. And you understand when they don’t get 100% of what they promised. They have a difficult job!
Hopefully the 115th Congress will not run like the Netflix series House of Cards!