Posted by: susanideus | August 5, 2009

Pride, Principles and Practicality

My friend wants to quit his job.  His pride has been deeply wounded, for he is a man who takes pride in his work.  More than that, his integrity has been questioned and that stabs his soul even more profoundly.  He feels that his boss no longer has confidence in him. That we all know he has been wrongfully accused is not much balm for his injuries. He truly does not feel he can stay under the circumstances.

I wonder if he has considered the consequences should he quit.

He would be missed, for he has befriended all of his co-workers. His humor and caring brighten many a day. His work would be missed because not only does he have a talent for what he does, he also harbors knowledge held only in his mind.  It is the knowledge that comes from doing a job well for a long time, owning it, making it yours, and doing it with the ease of experience.

As crass as it may be to consider, he would suffer financial consequences.  In this economy, it would be difficult to find another position with the salary and benefits he’s accrued. He could lose his house, and he and his wife want to start a family. He helps support several other family members as well.  Can he afford to act on principle, or must he be practical?  I don’t know what he will decide.

What does one do when pride, principles and practicality clash?

My husband and I once quit a job over principles.  We felt like our ethical beliefs would be compromised if we stayed.  Practically, it was a horrible choice.  And, we’ve had few days in the interim when we haven’t wondered if we should have stayed and fought for what we believed.  Perhaps if we’d stayed, some minds would have been changed, but we’ll never know.  That’s a hollow victory. We may have escaped with our principles intact, though in retrospect, I’d have to say it was likely our pride that also took part of the prize. We didn’t want to be wrong, and so we left it in the hands of those who we believed to be in the wrong. It’s not that all pride is bad.  Pride in a job well executed with integrity is a good quality, as is pride in standing up for what you believe in.  But pride does have its costs. All choices have costs.

I’ve always known that this same conundrum caused my husband to quit his last job.  While unintended, it was this decision landed us in the financial mess we’re in. Was he right, justified?  Probably.  Not long ago, he was somewhat vindicated when his nemesis, the reason for his resignation, which had been fueled by both principle and pride, was escorted off the property under guard.  It hasn’t changed our current circumstances, except to reinforce our belief, our hope, that right does win out in the end.  That’s worth something…no, that’s worth a lot

Facing the same choices together, I tend to the practical side and he toward the principles.  Does that make him impractical and me unprincipled?  Not at all. After forty+ years of marriage, we balance one another.  We hold our beliefs dear, consider them of paramount importance.  Through this rough stretch, we’ve both learned ways to be practical that we had never had need of before.  Life is a series of lessons, a path of growth. If, as we believe, we are where we are at this point in time for a reason, it is only right when we learn and grow from each experience.  Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes mistakes are us making what we thought to be the best choice at the time given our options.  I believe that to be the case with the job we’ve since regretted leaving.  Mistakes are a great teacher. If we glean some bit of knowledge, some grain of understanding from a past error, it was not made in vain.  Life goes on; growth happens.

I don’t know what my friend will decide.  He’s younger, has less life experience, but he has a good heart and a good head on his shoulders.  That counts for a lot.  And, he has his friends, lots of us. I think he’ll be OK.



  1. Who was it said that mistakes are just lessons we didn’t choose for ourselves? Thanks for sharing!

  2. Susan,
    Thanks for letting me know you are back in the blogosphere. I look forward to reading your posts, hearing your musings, sharing your life!

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