The Rightness of Being Wrong
Last weekend a friend told me about some people she knew who took two years off their North American dream and worked in Saudi Arabia.
They came home and retired on the savings.
I love British Columbia. I love Vancouver. I even love (most of) Vancouver’s suburbs. But it is insanely expensive to live here. The ability to do what these people did – to live with little to no financial stress – is wildly appealing.
Except I wouldn’t do so well in Saudi Arabia.
I’m not known for being erhm… quiet about things. I’m… out there. Both friends and strangers know what I think about things (as evidenced by this blog… ahem). I don’t keep my thoughts close to the chest.
But that’s starting to change.
I’ve often felt that I just don’t fit anywhere. I’m too conservative for liberals, too liberal for conservatives. My ideas on ‘hot topic’ issues generate nothing but ‘dislikes’ from both sides.
We claim to be pursuing tolerance, yet never before have I seen such violent insults thrown between those who disagree on complex issues. Last night’s election is a recent – vivid – example. If you’re not with us, you’re against us, has taken precedence in a society craving approval and attention. Not too long ago we prided ourselves on teaching our children to think critically. Now it seems we pride ourselves on making other people think like us.
But wouldn’t it be boring if they did?
I am blessed to know some of the most creative, brilliant, forward-thinking people of our generation. I am surrounded by those who would never just take my – or anyone’s – word for it. Even during my years in university, I could see those around me turning the world on its axis by their fresh, progressive ideas and their belief that we should all engage critically on things.
Not one of them sees the world exactly the way I do.
I wouldn’t want them to.
What would life be like without friends who give fresh perspective? What would my mind be like without the integrity of every unique-thinking person who points out my mistakes, my missing the marks, my fallacies?
(and believe me, there are many)
(and seriously, I’m thankful for them)
What would happen if I never read another book?
Yes. It’s the same thing.
I’ve read books that have made me downright angry – at least the first time. I’ve read authors whose one hundred thousand words I’ve thrown across the room – at least once. Most of those hundred thousand words I’ve picked up again. I may not agree with what’s being said, but I can strive to understand why they’re saying it.
In other words, I can shut up and listen.
Most of the world doesn’t really care what I think about things. They care what they think about things. They don’t want to hear me blather on about how I see the world. They want to tell me how they see it.
If I’m smart, I’ll let them.
Where would we be without people who disagree with us? Where would we be without a library of conflicting ideas? Where would we be without those who care enough about us to disagree with us, at least occasionally?
I don’t even want to think about it.
I remember the first time I took a university class that challenged my assumptions. I remember what room I was in. I remember how it smelled. I remember the professor. I even remember what he said… truth doesn’t come in a promise box. It comes through experience, stories, searching… testing.
I remember what I was … testing… at the time. I remember those who were saying things about the thing I was testing that made me cry, scream, even hit my head on the wall.
One of them was my husband.
Thank God I had the accidental wisdom to marry a man who disagrees with me.
I took that class to prove him wrong. Twelve years later, I find that he was very, very right.
It was I who was very, very wrong.
And, crazily enough, I couldn’t be happier about it.
I’ve found great freedom in allowing myself to be wrong. It’s the same freedom that embraces human nature at its core – that sees our failures and still believes we are valuable. It’s the same freedom that permits us to say… We are fallible. We are frail. We are
sometimes often wrong.
Yet we are still needed.
So why do we spend so much energy trying to prove otherwise?
What if we stopped. trying. to. get. everyone. to. agree. with. us?
What if we stopped caring about being right?
What if we embraced the transformative, beautiful, even peaceful experience of being wrong?
We might be happier. We might be freer. We might even be more… right.
So friends, the next time you feel your buttons pushed, the next time that you feel propelled to hurl your opinion on someone else – perhaps even inflict that opinion on them as gospel – remember that you might be missing out on the life-changing experience of being wrong.
You might start to see – like I am – that more often than not, it is wiser to shut up and listen.
And on that note…