Spider’s web: CHEELA CHILALA
ONE Sunday afternoon â€“ sometime in the 80â€™s – after a church service at the local Baptist church I attended, I went to my fatherâ€™s Salvation Army church to collect the keys for home. The service was still running, so I decided to sit in the back pew to wait for it to end. There was a lot of excitement among the congregants – then I noticed it was my father preaching. He was not the pastor but one of the lay preachers â€“ a popular one for that matter, as evidenced by the enthusiastic response of the congregants to his sermon that Sunday. There were intermittent rounds of applause and shouts of â€œDictionary!â€ â€“ the nickname given to my father by some church members.
I wondered, that day, why a popular church member like my father did not rise through the ranks of the Salvation Army.
He had quite a low rank. Then I learnt that the reason my father would not be promoted by church authorities was because of his stubborn refusal to wear the church uniform.
He always argued that the uniform was not a measure of oneâ€™s spirituality and that you could wear the uniform and still live like a devil. By refusing to wear the church uniform my father lost out on any possibility of being promoted to higher ranks.
I learnt something from my fatherâ€™s unflinching refusal to wear the church uniform: the price of principles. Like my father, I would never agree to wear church uniform â€“ but that is not the main thing I learnt from his stance.
Rather, it is the idea that we should have some principles to live by, and that we should stand by those principles regardless of what loss or disadvantage we may suffer as a consequence. We must be ready, in other words, to face the consequences of our values or principles. We must be ready to lose favour, benefits or privileges because of the principles we stand on.
One reason why many people fail to stand on their principles is the fear of losing privileges or a privileged position.
There are two types of people: those who sacrifice their principles for the sake of their privileges and those who sacrifice their privileges for the sake of their principles.
Which one are you? Dwight D Eisenhower, one-time president of the US, notably said, â€œA people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.â€
Another reason why many people abandon their values or principles is the fear of being different.
They want to go with the crowd, even if the crowd is wrong or they are uncomfortable with what the crowd is doing.
They do not want to be the odd one out. Being principled, though, often demands that you take the narrow unpopular path. How often do we take decisions or actions in order to conform to the held-by-all opinion!
Being principled does not mean being unreasonably rigid, though: it means, rather, that you can adjust to the changing times without compromising on your principles.
That is the point of the statement by former American president Jimmy Carter: â€œWe must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.â€
If you want to lead a principled life, you must be ready to walk away from the crowd and popular opinion.
You must be ready to say No to what you do not agree with and face the consequences of your stance. You must be ready to offend even those who are close to you.
You might even lose friends â€“ but that is part of the price you pay for being principled. Oriana Fallaci, the famous Italian author, once said, â€œThe moment you give up your principles, and your values, you are dead…â€
Spider’s web: CHEELA CHILALA