“I’m right. You’re wrong. Period.”
This attitude has started wars . . . between family members, between nations. Personal certainty has led to the dissolution of relationships, to extreme agony, and, all too often, death. Thinking and acting on the I’m-right-you’re-wrong premise is surely the cause of untold misery and disharmony. Is there a cure?
Proposition No. 1 – In situations of disagreement and conflict, it’s generally a good idea to think (and perhaps verbalize) a most difficult admission: I could be wrong. And rather than just mouth the words, a serious and open-minded examination of whatever issue is at hand is prudent . . . and may even lead to some changes in one’s perceptions of reality.
Proposition No. 2 – Issues vary in importance, and some value judgments are advisable before passionately pushing one’s viewpoint. It’s the old choose-your-battles philosophy. For example, the issue-value of a family member’s chosen hairstyle (and excoriating, vilifying him/her for it) carries a far lesser amount of weight than a person embracing KKK racism. Even if convinced that one understands an issue correctly, a good share of the time the world would be a place of much more peace if one simply kept one’s mouth shut. And yet, there are times when one must speak up. Discernment is the critical factor.
Proposition No. 3 – One can vehemently disagree with others and yet experience a harmonious and mutually respectful relationship with them. I have dear friends whose relationships I value but are from different sides of the planet politically. We know it, put political discussions largely aside, and continue to enjoy each other’s company. Again, the weight of the issues involved must be evaluated. There’s a huge difference in effect between the vote someone casts in an election and being a serial child molester.
Proposition No. 4 – One can disapprove of other’s thoughts, attitudes, and actions and not reject them as a person. This is not to imply that one wishes or needs to spend time with said others, but they are still valued as fellow human beings and treated civilly when contact is unavoidable. One need always consider the prospect of change – either in the other or the self or both – and affirm the same kind of respect-for-differences and accompanying treatment that one would wish for oneself.
This is a tough subject on which much more could be written. For now, my proposition is that we need to be thoughtfully judicious with respect to the I’m-right-you’re-wrong-period mindset. After all, we do have to live together on planet earth . . . and peace is far more pleasant than discord.