Stubborn or principled?


stubbornIt’s a fine line, right?  Are you holding to higher standards and beliefs or are you just childishly unwilling to budge?

In some ways, the question is as confusing as the motivations that go into the behavior.  Stubbornness usually connotes a negative quality, though terms like “stubbornly refuse defeat” and “stubbornly cling to hope” often denote courage and determination.

Even the dictionaries disagree, with one claiming “showing dogged determination” and another “unreasonably or perversely unyielding”.   Those seem diametrically opposed, but even so, how to compare that to “standing by one’s principles”?

It’s difficult to be principled and successful in the world.  That is not the same as being honest and successful.  Principles often are submerged in the working world in order to get along, survive and advance.  It doesn’t make you dishonest, just career oriented.

Conversely, there is plenty of stubbornness in the world and little of it seems to be from sticking to one’s beliefs.  From as little as refusing to agree on some course of action to as big as refusing to agree on some course of action.  I’m not trying to be glib.  The course of action may be a work meeting or a family vacation.  A stubborn attitude at work will have different repercussions than a stubborn one with your friends or in a relationship.   These aren’t confused as principles, just preferences.

But what about the times when something really goes against the grain for you?  Something deeply personal or spiritual that others don’t agree with.  Are you admired as principled?  Are you dismissed as stubborn?  How can others tell the difference without a full explanation and should you need to give them that explanation?

My last relationship surely had some stress fractures due to principles of mine that she didn’t share.  My friends would suggest there were other fractures of greater magnitude, but some of those same friends didn’t share my principles and suggested I needed to “get over it”.  Should we “get over” our principles?

I don’t think that’s wise.  In a society swiftly losing touch with personal enrichment (I hesitate to use “spiritual” as I don’t want to infer “religious”), I think holding to our principles and living by them is more valuable than ever.

Of course, it’s possible I’m just being stubborn about the whole subject.

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