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To address the necessary and positive issue of compromise.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To address the necessary and positive issue of compromise.

Preparation and materials

  • One leader and three readers.
  • The story of the conjoined Hensel twins featured in a BBC documentary is used to explore the issue of compromise. See for information.


  1. Reader 1 (texting on a phone) Grr! I’m so frustrated! My brother is such a pain! I’ve invited some friends round tonight to watch a film and he’s just informed me that there’s an important football match on he needs to watch it in the living room. He always hogs the TV. It’s so unfair. I seem to spend my life fitting around him all the time. I hate him!

    Reader 2 My mum and dad are so unreasonable. They are so strict all the time. I’m supposed to be in at 10 tonight, but there’s a party I want to go to and it doesn’t finish until midnight. Guess what? They still want me in for 10! They make these stupid rules and then wonder why I don’t stick to them. It’s crazy!

    Reader 3 (with a football) I’m really sick of my friends right now. We agreed to play football in the park after school and now they’ve changed their minds and are going to the arcade instead. We always end up doing what they want and never what I want. I don’t even want to go to the arcade, but I guess that’s what I’ll end up doing. It’s just rubbish!
  2. Leader: I can see that all three of you are really fed up. Someone is messing up your plans and it looks like you’re not going to get to do what you want to do. How about trying to reach some sort of compromise?
  3. Reader 1 Are you joking? I wouldn’t compromise with my brother ever. This is a battle and he is not going to win. I am not giving in that easily.

    Reader 2 That’s never going to work. Compromise involves rational conversation and there is not a lot of that between me and my parents. They make unreasonable rules, I break them. That’s how it goes and I can’t see it changing any time soon.

    Reader 3 Compromise is never going to work. I always give in to keep the peace and never stand my ground. My friends will never do what I want to do unless they want to do it, too. It’s that simple.
  4. Leader Let me introduce you to two young girls from America who have had to learn to compromise. Abby and Brittany Hensel from Minnesota in the United States are like most 23-year-olds in many ways. They love spending time with their friends and going on holiday. They love driving and playing sport. They’ve been to university and have jobs.

    Abby and Brittany are also conjoined twins. The girls have two heads, two sets of lungs, two hearts and two stomachs, but only one arm each, one leg each and only one liver, one large intestine and one reproductive system between them.

    Being permanently joined together, the sisters have had to discover the value of teamwork. Abby controls the right-hand side of their body and Brittany the left. They have to work together to perform the most basic of functions. For example, as there is a significant difference in height between them – their two legs are different lengths – Brittany has to stand on tiptoe all the time to ensure that they maintain their balance.

    The girls have had to face and overcome many difficulties in their lives. On an everyday level, they have had to learn to master the art of compromise as Abby and Brittany have completely different personalities and tastes. Abby says, ‘We definitely have different styles. Brittany's a lot more like neutrals and pearls and stuff like that and I would rather have it be more fun and bright and colourful.’ Abby is the more outspoken sister and loves going out, whereas Brittany prefers to stay home. Brittany is scared of heights; Abby is not. Abby is interested in maths and science; Brittany prefers the arts. They also even have different body temperatures at times.

    Imagine the discussions they must have about what to wear, what to eat, what to do and what to watch on TV. Imagine the arguments about whether to put a sweatshirt on or not when one sister is feeling hot and the other is feeling cold. The girls have had to learn to reach a compromise about every single aspect of their lives. Without compromise, they would not be able to live a normal life. They would not ever be able to leave the house if they could not agree on what to wear!

    The girls have graduated from Bethel University and are now setting out on their career as primary school teachers. Even in their career path, they have had to seek a compromise. Although they have two teaching licences, they will not receive two salaries. Abby states, ‘Obviously right away we understand that we are going to get one salary because we're doing the job of one person’, but she hopes that they will be able to negotiate, because they have two degrees, two different perspectives and two different ways of teaching to bring to their post. Also, as Brittany points out, ‘we can do more than one person.’

    What a fascinating story! You can watch Abby and Brittany: Joined to Life on BBC Three on iPlayer if you want to find out more.

    What a great example of the necessity of compromise in everyday life. Abby and Brittany could not live without a certain level of compromise. The same is actually true for all of us. No one can sustain any relationship without a certain level of compromise. Take our three friends who we heard from at the start of the assembly.

    (Insert name of Reader 1) could try to put aside her resentment towards her brother and reach a compromise about the TV. Perhaps they could have a timetable to fill in so that they each be allocated times to watch what they want.

    (Insert name of Reader 2) probably needs to find a way to meet her parents halfway. Maybe if she respected the rules more often, her parents would be more lenient in special circumstances.

    (Insert name of Reader 3) has to find a way to speak out honestly about what he wants. If his friends cannot reach a compromise and keep letting him down, maybe it is time to find new friends with similar interests to his own.

Time for reflection

Compromise is not a dirty word. It is not easy, but it is necessary in all of our friendships and relationships. Compromise is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of commitment to making our friendships and relationships work.

It’s all about achieving a balance.
It’s not about giving in all the time.
It’s not about getting your own way all the time.
It’s about compromise.

It’s not about meeting the needs of others all the time.
It’s not about having your own needs met all the time.
It’s about compromise.

It’s not about putting others first all the time.
It’s not about putting yourself first all the time.
It’s about compromise.

It’s not about giving all the time.
It’s not about taking all the time.
It’s about compromise.

May we have the wisdom to know when we need to compromise and the strength of character to do so. Let’s make compromise work!


‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 73)

Publication date: August 2013   (Vol.15 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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