There’s a beautiful scene in the 2019 Netflix film The Two Popes where Pope Benedict XVI is walking with the future Pope Francis in the gardens at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence. In the scene, we find Pope Benedict frustrated to the point of anger and spittle with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Francis’ birth name before be became the Pope), because Benedict insisted Bergoglio was compromising on the traditional views of the Catholic church.
As Benedict rattled off a list of situations to prove his point, he would follow each list by saying with a stern tone, “You compromised!”
And Francis would reply calmly, “No, I changed.”
I sat there mesmerized by the back-and-forth intensity of the conflict between the two Popes, feeling defensive for Francis, when something broke open inside me.
How many times had I quietly accused someone of compromise in the boardroom or the classroom or in friendship, when really they had done the hard work of actually changing their minds?
How many times had I myself been accused of compromise when in fact, I had simply changed my mind? And yet no one bothered to ask why, or how, or what for.
Compromise and Change can look the same and yet sound very different. I believe this is the same difference we see between behaviors and motivations—when what we do looks the same, but why we do it is very different. That’s why we have to get beyond the outward appearances of compromise in order to reach the heart of change.
WHEN YOU’RE CURIOUS ABOUT COMPROMISE:
Next time you wonder if someone around you has compromised on an idea, a position, a stance, or a decision, consider asking these questions before making assumptions:
- What is the situation, and where do you see the compromise?
- Do you have the relational equity with this individual to ask whether or not they’ve compromised?
- If not, what can you do to release this awareness in a healthy way? How can you be mindful of your own temptation to compromise?
- If so, how can you tell them you noticed the situation, and you’re wondering if they compromised or changed their minds?
- If they compromised, ask why?
- If they changed their minds, ask why?
- Either way, ask how you can support your colleague, friend, classmate, or teammate in their compromise or change?
OR, if you’ve changed your mind about something but you’ve been accused of compromise:
- Let the people around you know that you’ve changed your mind (when the timing is right) and briefly explain why.
- Share what you thought or believed before, what caused you to change, and what you think now.
- Let your colleagues, friends, classmates or teammates know you’re open to more questions or conversations if they have time after the meeting, class or practice (in fact, you’d prefer questions or conversations over assumptions and accusations).
And if it’s helpful for you to hear or see an example of this kind of conversation, watch the movie, The Two Popes. Whether or not the church or the Catholic faith is your “thing,” this is an insightful movie with great acting and storytelling.