There’s a passage in Clayton Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life. Christensen describes the time he played varsity basketball in high school. His team had done well and made it to the championships, but there was a problem. The big game was on a Sunday and he had made a promise to himself that he would keep the Sabbath and therefore couldn’t play. His teammates begged him to play anyway saying things like “God would understand,” but Christensen kept his promise. If you can’t keep a promise to yourself who can you keep your promise to? Christensen writes:
Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over and over in the years that followed.
And it turned out that my teammates didn’t need me. They won the game anyway.
If you give in the “just this once,” based on a marginal-cost analysis, you’ll regret where you end up. That’s the lesson I learned: it’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time.The boundary–your personal moral line–is powerful, because you don’t cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there’s nothing to stop you doing it again.
Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.
I have spoken about my decisions to not eat meat, not drink alcohol, my feelings towards how we treat people a lot. My reasons are my reasons and although I’m very open to discussion, I don’t stand on a soapbox. I do not cross my line. There have been many times I opted to bend my personal moral line which completely obfuscated having the line in the first place. I won’t make that mistake again.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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