The Principle of the Thing


A few months back, I purchased a treadmill. I decided that I would bring it home on my own and save the  seventy-five dollar fee. I justified my behavior by claiming that  ‘it was the principle of the thing’.

But the truth is that I made a bad decision. My doctor visit for the resulting pulled muscle was more than seventy-five dollars.

You can laugh at me, but you may have done something similar.

When I  say that ‘it’s the principle of the thing’, it often means I’m going to do something irrational.

Pursuing the ‘the principle of the thing’ has cost me time and money.

Have you ever stood in line an additional ten minutes to recieve credit for a thirty cent grocery coupon that the cashier missed?

Pursuing the ‘the principle of the thing’ has damaged important relationships.

Have you tried to prove how foolish someone else is, and looked foolish in the process?

I have discovered that for me, getting the last word in an argument with my spouse or friend is never really about ‘the principle of the thing’. 

Have you ever tried to reason with a government official, like the IRS? We know that’s a lost cause. But I’ve done it anyway. How about you?

I have discovered that making a kid recite an apology he doesn’t mean is not about a principle. It is about exercising our will over a child. Maybe you’ve experienced this.

I know that there are times when ‘the principle of the thing’ should matter.

When we work for a company, we need to uphold their principles. If we can’t do that in good faith, then it is time to move on.

We alI hold principles that should never be compromised. Integrity. Honesty. Fairness.

But sometimes what we call principle is really something else.

Sometimes we’re angry and just need to justify ourselves and our behavior.

Maybe the true ‘principle of the thing’ would be for us to be honest with ourselves and admit this.


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