Personal Attitudes

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures?

man-upset-450pk111910-360x250I was watching a Korean historical drama the other day. A battle for the throne was underway, with Side A plotting to lure a key player from Side B to their team. A member of Side A said that he was sure this key person would never sell out Side B. Another member from Side A then said that it’s man’s nature to change in desperate situations.

I found this interesting because many of us often say that we would never do certain things no matter how grim things get. But are we telling the truth?

With the exception of people with a death wish, we all want to live and hold on to the things we cherish. When a situation threatens our survival or well-being, it’s not unusual for us to use drastic methods of self-preservation.


  • You’re facing a hefty prison term and the cops urge you to make a deal: “Give up your source and we’ll reduce your sentence or set you free.”
  • A serial killer abducts you and your kid. He says you must choose between your own life and your child
  • You’re in the midst of a famine. Cannibalism is the only option, besides death.

How we would react in such cases depends on how badly we want to survive. For instance, a vegetarian might eat meat if plants became extinct. A woman might prostitute for a million dollars if it will release her from poverty. These same individuals may have claimed “I would never do such a thing!” But when something critical is on the line, survival instinct tends to come first.

choicesHow we would react also depends on our value system. In desperate situations, some people would not do certain things – I call this compartmentalizing. For instance, they would sacrifice their life to save a loved one, but they would have no issues stealing from an associate or a stranger to escape a severe financial bind. Or they would never rat out a friend just to stay out of prison, but they would betray that same friend to stay alive. Some people don’t compartmentalize; they simply do what it takes to survive — no act is too insidious. Or they do the “right” thing, holding on to their morals no matter how gloomy the situation.

Can you say with 100 percent certainty that you would never compromise your value system? Leave a comment below and explain why.

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