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The Principal and The Practical

Rachel Alexander July 31, 2014

Often when people are unable to move through conflict, it is because they are adhering to what they believe is a principle of some sort. I’ve witnessed people embroiled in conflict, claiming they are committed to “the principle” so adamantly, that it appears their true principle is being embroiled in conflict! It’s worth considering what it actually means to be acting from our principles, as opposed to when are we just using the word to conceal other, possibly less highbrow motives.

Here’s an unhappy example from my own life, when faithfulness to “the principle” got me into a car accident. On this fateful day I was stopped at a light, determined to make a left hand turn. I really wanted to turn left. I was certain, indignantly and righteously certain, that the other driver should yield. Perhaps he should have; it would have been polite. But he didn’t yield and neither did I. The result? A big accident.

I was very, very rooted in what should be rather than what would have been appropriate and effective in the given situation, which was for me to have yielded.

Ship captains do not navigate their course based on where the stars ought to be, but on where they actually are. This seems an effective way for each of us to navigate our personal courses.

NJ divorcing couples often want a particular distribution or a certain time sharing arrangement with their children, perhaps based on what each considers fair. The value of equity and fairness eclipses all other interests. As demonstrated by King Solomon, what is equal is not always what is best. It’s often vital to prioritize what is best for the children above what is fair for the parents.

The principle may look like the high road, but it can actually be a road to nowhere, a road that leads away from the ground and into the clouds.

I’m not suggesting that we live an unprincipled, raucous existence – but when you’re holding onto a principle like an anchor and sinking fast, even if you’re absolutely right to hold onto that anchor, as you’re gasping your last breath, you might want to let it go and resurface.

Here are a few indicators that the “principle” may be anything but:

  • When adhering to your principle demands that you shield yourself from the facts or obfuscate reality, it’s a good indication your “principle” is another name for something else. Possibly willfulness.

  • When it is shorthand for “I really want to get my way, no matter the cost.”

  • Or code for “my ego and self regard are on the line here.”

  • When a non-interested party may observe that your “principled” behavior looks a lot like stubbornness, aggression or revenge.

  • Your “principle” requires very little change from you, and significant change from the other person.

  • When discussing the subject, you could be mistaken for a dictator of a small to midsized nation.

The point of this blog is not recommending a divorce from your principles. It’s actually a call to be your principles – to live them, not just pull them into view when you are dug into a position.

True principles have these qualities:

  • Room for humility and development;

  • Confidence that it will ultimately prevail, even if the individual does not;

  • Grand and expansive – they create movement not intractability;

  • Exalt, they aren’t niggling or petty;

  • Align with lifeforce and light.

If you’re interested in principles, manifest those principles. Gandhi says, “Be the change you seek in the world.” He doesn’t say, “Force other people to reflect what you think should be happening; bend them to your will.” That is not quotable.

How do you see others living their principles, and how does that affect you? In what ways do you live your principles?