“It’s a matter of principle…” Have you ever heard someone utter that phrase? It usually comes right after the part where the person in question may have been proven wrong or shown why their perspective or opinion is incorrect and their trying to find a reason why something should still be pursued. People in general have a tendency to misinterpret what principles are, and how they should be applied.
Principles, as they relate to this specific context, are defined as a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning. Basically, trying to do the right thing can be construed as acting on principle. But for a lot of people, they’ll seek to make others suffer or seek punitive action against someone “as a matter of principle.” That’s where the waters get muddied, a bit…
Something important to remember is that even if one’s guiding principles tell them something may be the right thing, this doesn’t make it accurate. One’s principles can be heavily influenced by many of the same factors as one’s perspective or set of beliefs, where environment, family values and even religion can determine how your principles apply. When considering one’s principles, one also needs to contemplate the difference between “legal” and “moral,” as many people seem to think that those two concepts are one and the same. Even though they can sometimes apply to one another, they’re entirely separate and may not relate to the principle of a particular matter.
Where am I going with this? Well, consider the following scenario…. You come to an agreement with someone about something specific. Doesn’t really matter what; a transaction or a service, whatever. At some point, you find that this agreement is not in your favour and you try and negotiate with the other party in order to reach a resolution that suits you. They don’t agree and as a result, you seek outside help in the form of some legal entity… either the police or whatever agency may deal with your specific scenario/incident.
You come to find out that it doesn’t fall under the umbrella of whatever help you were seeking, but you still push the issue despite being shown that it doesn’t qualify as something wrong or dishonest on the other party’s behalf. And then, you utter the words that anyone unwilling to admit defeat have uttered… “It’s a matter of principle…” Sure it is, cupcake. Sure it is.
It’s important to develop the ability to pick your battles, in life. In fact, once you do you’ll discover that a great deal of daily stress will be eliminated by simply letting go of certain things, especially once it’s been made clear that there may be no turning back or changing someone’s mind. It’s kind of like the Serenity Prayer, which if you weren’t raised in a religious home you may not recognize. But the short version goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage, to change these things I can; and
Wisdom to know the difference.
If that isn’t an old school religious way of saying “pick your battles,” I don’t know what is! And that’s what’s important. Being able to recognize the things you won’t be able to to change and move on. Although there’s a great deal to be said about being able to fight through anything and never giving up, one DOES need to acknowledge that some things just aren’t worth it. It kind of ties in to that whole “eliminate suffering in yourself and others” thing I have going on.
Lastly, there are many people who prefer to be unhappy but be right, and may seek to find some way of taking punitive action against someone else by virtue of wanting to be right, Don’t be that person. That isn’t a matter of principle. That’s a little thing called “vengeance.” And no good can come of it. Sometimes, you just gotta let shit go. Food for thought. ☯️