Grace at the Altar of Compromise
By Stephen L Doherty
September 4th, 2020
“Still it might be nice, once in a while, not to have to choose between evils.
Just once, couldn’t I choose the lesser good?”―
My mother was fond of saying, “Two people can look at the same thing simultaneously…and see two distinctly different things…and that’s ok…” I was reminded of that theorem recently as my decision to boycott all professional sports was tested by forces stronger than my reasons for doing it, which, for the purposes of this essay, are irrelevant.
My reasons for compromising on that commitment reflect two equally powerful motivations. One, the recognition that there are “greater good” considerations in every strongly held decision and conviction. Two, the predictable problems accompanying any position or decision based on absolutism and rigidity. One must always be mindful not to sacrifice the excellent on the altar of the perfect. In a world increasingly unyielding in its attitudes, biases, and convictions-the human spirit yearns for any respite that will deliver a measure of joy and tranquility.
My dilemma? My 23-yeard old son is currently staying with me and is an avid Denver Nuggets fan. He shares many of my viewpoints on cultural and societal issues but they don’t, for him, equate to boycotting something he loves with the kind of passion most people wish they could muster for anything in life.
I could hear him hooting and shouting in the next room as he would exhort me to join his excited viewership of his beloved Nuggets making a deep playoff run. I politely declined and he politely allowed me to with no complaint nor criticism. He respected my reasons for my decision to ignore NBA basketball. I appreciated his not ridiculing nor belittling my decision as he was well aware of my love for sports-both as a player and as a fan.
I don’t use the word epiphany very often but I was soon overcome with a feeling of regret and remorse for not trading a smidgeon of my sports boycott for an evening of fun and raucous joy with my son. On our deathbeds, few of us will take comfort in memories of boycotts and will likely be wishing we would have seized upon a few more of life’s most cherished memories that we sacrificed on an absolutist altar of rigidity and compliance. So I compromised!
For the “moment” I shelved my sports boycott. I traded it for a memorable evening of fun and excitement with my son watching NBA playoff basketball featuring his beloved Denver Nuggets. We enjoyed several nights of exciting playoff action that will register more for that special father-son time than it ever will for the game’s outcome. In a few weeks, the memory of the Denver Nuggets playoff loss will fade to black but the mental video of a father and his son, side by side on the sofa, sharing such a terrific evening together-will endure for the ages.
On Christmas Day, 1914-amidst a horrific World War that had snuffed out hundreds of thousands of young lives between Germans and British soldiers, a 24-hour truce was adopted amongst the weary combatants on the Western front. The sounds of guns and cannons ceased, replaced by the singing of “Silent Night” by the Germans as the two sides exited their trenches and began exchanging Christmas wishes and gifts of cigarettes and souvenirs.
The festivities concluded with an afternoon soccer game accompanied by laughter and the spirit of the holiday. The day ended soon enough and the dawn saw the horrific hostility and carnage begin where it left off. Arguably, both sides had “compromised” to a degree that could have elicited court marshals on charges of fraternization and treason! But it didn’t.
Life demands that we respect and honor special moments that can’t be replaced and might never visit us again. For me, sharing the sofa and an irreplaceable evening of sports excitement with my son–will ALWAYS invite a compromise for the greater good of special family memories. If the Christmas spirit could bend a World War to its will, then certainly my sports boycott would survive a few special evenings with my son and The Denver Nuggets!
“Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example,
not his advice.” -Charles Kettering