His attitude, always to bear in mind the good of the next person, made him adopt a more lenient attitude in all matters of permitted and forbidden things, based on the principle "the power to rule leniently is to be preferred." As has been stated, Rabbi Israel [Salanter] would punctiliously observe all stringencies and comply with all opinions. This applied where he himself alone was involved. Wherever others were concerned, he would always seek the ways and means to rule leniently. This accounts for his many well-known rulings in matters pertaining to health and danger to life,"danger to life being graver than ritual prohibitions."
From here stemmed his audacious granting of permission to perform acts otherwise forbidden on Shabbat and to eat on Yom Kippur during the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Vilna. And from here stemmed his lenient ruling on his own conduct where others might thereby suffer hardship. Reliable sources indicate that one of the reasons for Rabbi Israel [Salanter] refusing to accept a rabbinical appointment was that he sided with the more lenient opinions in many halachot in opposition to the prevailing stricter rulings of the other authorities, and he was unwilling to stir up objections and arguments. --The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2 pages 253-54.
This story is, without a doubt, a pearl to me - in fact, I would consider it a suitable bedtime story for (in the distant future) grandchildren of mine. Filled with action and a fantastic ending, this account speaks volumes to us in the realm of decision. Here we have the Sages, the brilliant minds of Israel, having a delightful halachic dispute over the purity status of an oven of a man named Achnai. Indeed, of all the minds, history states that R. Eliezer is said to have been the brightest. Truly, even in this story, it appears that Hashem agrees with R. Eliezer in his decision. But the rest of the Sages do not concur. No way.