Monday, May 4, 2009

Principled, not Popular

Like everyone else, I have viewpoints and opinions. If you ask me, I’ll tell you what they are. You may not agree with me. You may think I am closed-minded, old-fashioned, too traditional, bigoted, whatever. But, if you ask, you will get an answer.

My opinions have developed over time, as a result of research, experience, environment, and upbringing. I believe my opinions are reasonable. That’s not surprising. In fact, I imagine most people believe their opinions are reasonable.

Please note, however, I will not change my opinion just so you will like me. I will not fake an opinion to gain your respect. I will not turn my back on what I believe just to seek approval or peace.

But, my opinions are not etched in stone. I am open to change my mind if appropriately convinced, and do not mind respectfully debating my positions. In the end, if we continue to disagree, I will respect your opinion, and I will ask that you respect mine.

I aim to be principled, not popular.

It used to be that principle was something to be proud of. If you were a person of your word, you were trusted. To be called a "man of his word" or a “woman of her word” was a compliment of high honor, and told much more of a person's character than a long list of accolades. People didn’t have to agree with you, they just always knew where you stood.

Now, not so much.

Principles are things for which we apologize. We dare not stand too firm, lest we offend those who disagree. We discard or discount beliefs in an effort to reach consensus. Opinions are either validated or ridiculed based on popular (or even our own) opinion. Some are quick to bow to the whims of culture, even at the expense of long validated beliefs. We speak out of one side of our mouth to reach out to one group, and then use the other side to draw in the opposite crowd. And we do it all with such lack of detail that we convince ourselves of our wisdom and craftiness. We become adept at sitting on the fence, selling our soul to both sides.

Aside from being dishonest, such wavering is destructive. At some point, we’re going to have to pick a side. The time will come when those to whom we have sold our integrity will come calling to cash in. After amassing popularity and power atop a foundation of deceit, all our pretending will be stripped. The people will realize the emperor has no clothes. Nor has he any guts, lacking the courage to take a difficult stand when necessary.

No, I’d rather stand on what I believe, while continuing to learn and grow. I’d rather you like me for who I really am, than me try to remember which mask I should be wearing. After all, if I am looking for honest friends, I ought to be one as well.

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