On Selling Out

A friend of mine posted an interesting status on his Facebook page the other day:


At some point in time, everyone sells out something that they believe in to cash in on something else.

Whenever you do cash in (and everyone WILL sell out for something), make sure what ever [sic] you ‘sold’ for your thirty pieces of silver, be it a belief, a person or a possession, was worth it, because once you’ve sold out, you can’t go back.” — L. Jay Houston


This has been resonating for me, especially in light of recent conversations with friends.

First off, what is “selling out”? The term has a negative connotation and usually involves giving up a moral or ethical position in exchange for something of tangible value, usually money or finance-related. I have found this to be true, both in observing the ever-changing landscape of our societal fabric (e.g., reality TV shows) and in my personal life. We all give up something we think we don’t need at the time, in an attempt to gain something greater (money, fame, security, love).

Secondly, everyone has a different price tag. Sometimes that price tag isn’t necessarily monetary.  Adulation could be the hook, or it could be a decent roof over one’s head. Being seen as a hero may be more important to someone than living a chaste life. Thus, one’s price for “selling out” — the thirty pieces of silver — will vary.

Finally, making the decision to “sell out” is, at some level, irrevocable. It’s the difference between pawning an item and being able to get it back before it’s due to be sold, and losing the ticket that would enable you to get that item back. Depending on what you give up, getting it back may not be that important. Case in point: a student may want to stay in on weekends and study, instead of partying, in order to keep his or her GPA up, which would enable him or her to keep a scholarship, and be in a better position for key internships, etc. In the short term, the student is “selling out” fun and frolic in exchange for a long-term goal of prosperity and accomplishment. Looking back, the student may be more than willing to give up some campus parties for the chance at fostering the type of connections that will further his or her career down the line. For that student, the risk is acceptable, the thirty pieces of silver easily pocketed as a down payment for future silver.

For others, socially approved virtues such as morality, ethics, modesty, etc. may be foreign currency to some, and again deemed unimportant enough to get rid of easily. This is best demonstrated by the lengths people will go in order to inject life into a reality TV show, and keep his or her spot on the show.  Others would deem the price for such virtues too high to contemplate, and would prefer to reject the silver. In either case, each person or persons have determined their bottom line, their non-negotiable zone, their dealbreakers.

Funny thing about dealbreakers: sometimes, you never know what you will (and can) really put up with until your boundaries are tested. When the rubber meets the road, it’s interesting to see how boundaries are recalibrated; the terms of non-negotiation are, well, renegotiated; and morality becomes more flexible than originally thought. It is during these times that the price of thirty pieces of silver, in whatever currency appeals to you, will either increase or decrease in value, and you will have to figure out whether you’re able to afford to purchase what you really want. Some decide the price is too high, and keep it moving. Others decide to go for broke, even if it leaves them in the red. In the end, whatever decision allows you to sleep at night, is the right decision.

I say all this even as my own boundaries are recalibrating, and I’m determining just how much I’m willing to give in order to achieve my goals. However, I have finally realized that you have to give up something in order to gain; the greater the goal, the greater the sacrifice. If you aren’t putting something personal in the game, then the game will mean nothing to you and you won’t play as hard.  The reinforcement of personal boundaries can be seen as selling out, as I am choosing to promote personal welfare over that of the greater good. I’ve come to understand that not everyone wants to be saved, nor is it my place to do so. The Captain Save-A-Ho cape should occupy space in my closet for even lengthier periods of time. When you try to save someone who is drowning, sometimes you have to let that person drown in order to save yourself. For self-preservation, I’m willing to accept my thirty pieces of silver, and I will spend it wisely. It’s an exchange I’m comfortable making, and I will sleep well.

Thanks for stopping by.

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