I’ve had a number of experiences lately where I’ve been absolutely, positively, unequivocally right.
I was right that my friend had an anger problem and needed to stop drinking after a mutual friend showed up missing his front tooth.
The angry one said the newly toothless man lost his tooth by trying to bite his finger that he was pointing in his face, while the newly toothless man said he
I had seen the angry one before in a fit of rage. Irish face turned cherry red, with red pulsating veins surrounding his blue irises. I knew he would sometimes drink so much that it made him hungry for a fight and the slightest perceived insult would spiral him out of control.
He insisted the guys missing tooth wasn’t his fault.
Of course, our conversation about his behavior and my own self righteous attitude caused us to get into an argument. Mean words were exchanged, promises and declarations were made that we would never again speak to one another and we parted ways in anger and frustration.
This isn’t the only time I’ve experienced loss due to my need to be right in a situation.
I also knew I was right in the argument I was having with a friend who was going to work on my van.
We decided to do some extra work on my van, during a phone call where he confided in me that he was heading out to the “Big Tent” and planning to stay there until he could sell his personal van that he was living in.
He listed it for 43K but was willing to see what he could get for it.
He told me he was down to his last buck and his only other option was to have another mutual friend loan him money against his van.
I asked him if it would be helpful for him if I got a little work done and paid him for it. He said it works help him out tremendously and so we decided that he would work for $20/hour doing small carpentry jobs to the van.
As the work date got closer, our conversations got more stressful. He would say things to me like, “I should be grateful to get such good work done at such an affordable rates”. I world respond by saying, “You’re located somewhere far off the beaten path, in the middle of nowhere, where I can’t get any internet service and thus – can’t work. I’m literally driving hours and miles out of my way to hand deliver you work”.
The day before we were scheduled to start work he said he would only work for a flat fee of $100/day. I was a little annoyed but I figured we could give it a shot and hoped that by agreeing to a daily rate I might actually get more bang for my buck.
It didn’t work out that way. I agreed to pay him by the day and watched as he moved like a slug, spending the majority of the time just walking back and forth. Needing to say hi to this one and needing to grab something from that one.
I’ve argued and defended a position or or perspective in fights that weren’t even mine.
And whats the point?
Being right in a strange way provides a sense of safety and security. Its as if we believe that if we know everything we can plan our lives properly and avoid harm.
However, usually the opposite is true.
The need to be right is the work of our ego fighting to remain
Desperate to maintain its identification with “having it all figured out”, or knowing more than someone else.
Our ego’s addiction to being right is typically the basis for all war and confusion.
Just the act of offering the other person the benefit of the doubt takes effort, and pushes us to connect more deeply with our inherent kindness and generosity.
Now, when I feel myself inclined to prove a point, I’m trying to take a moment to ask myself.
- What’s the point of being right in this situation?
- Will it protect me or someone else from being hurt?
- Do I have anything to gain from being right, aside from a smug egoic satisfaction?
- The other question I ask myself is, “What if they’re right”?
- Is there any possible way that they might be right about the situation?
- Where might I be able to offer them the benefit of the doubt?
- How might leaving space for their story support me in my ultimate goal of peace?
Being willing to relinquish the need to be right, feels like an immediate offense to our egos.
But ultimately, opens us up to explore the infinite possibilities and explanations that exist outside of our limited perspective of how the world should be.