I had the honor of sitting down over coffee with a friend of mine today. I wish I had more of those opportunities but it seems like connecting with people becomes more of a challenge every year. This friend was using me as a sounding board for some analysis of issues going on in their life right now- something that they just don’t do, so I will respect that honor with their privacy. With that in mind, one of the things we were talking about hit home.
The issue was a serious one- where do you draw your line regarding your principles? I mean your core, fundamentally held beliefs. And what level of arrogance does it take to hold somebody to a stated principle that you know that you yourself have… perhaps taken a fuzzy interpretation of a few times? When I was younger, perhaps more idealistic and certainly sillier, it was easy to take the bad ass, no prisoners approach to ethics. Wrong was wrong, you violate an important issue and you’re banned from my life with all attendant emotional consequences. It’s easier to be unforgiving when you haven’t racked up a multitude of personal failures( or you’re running for political office).
Now though… Now, I can say that I’ve sacrificed my principles many times. Not all at once, not always cataclysmically, but certainly I have failed them; ventured too far over the fuzzy area of the line. I am not proud of that, I certainly demand better of myself, but I have failed. Repeatedly. In my closest relationships, I have experienced a violation of my principles and trust several times. Certain trusts have been consciously violated, sometimes almost maliciously so, to the point where repairing the relationship is perceived to be almost impossible. When I was younger I would have said, “Forget them, they aren’t worth it in your life. You can do better, expect better, etc.” Now, I find myself willing to more willing to forgive, but not to forget. I extend more grace than I used to. I value people and relationships more. It’s not that I don’t aspire to live my beliefs, my principles that hopefully help guide myself as a decent human being- it’s just that I’ve started to realize being decent isn’t always about remembering how to follow the rules. I suspect several of my former pastors might disagree with me.
During our conversation, one of the things my friend brought up was the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” They said that was a warning that you should never give somebody a second chance to make the same mistake with you. A protectionist statement. I disagreed. I said it was a matter of understanding that second chances involve both risk and responsibility, a warning that it isn’t all about the other person. We reflected on that one for awhile.
If this post seems obscure, or poorly worded, please understand that some things remain private for other people. I don’t share my dirty laundry(or, hopefully, anyone else’s) on the Internet, even on a blog of few followers. People deserve respect. That said, I’m still thinking this through in my head, to word it better so that I can better understand that line that isn’t there.