Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Being Right Won't Make You Happy

Reading opposing comments on an online article lately, I was struck by how these two supposed sides (which don't really exist, most people have mixed feelings and viewpoints on a variety of issues, and those viewpoints change over time) demonize each other and are so blind to their own erroneous reasoning. I easily took the word "Liberal" as used in one of the posts and replaced it with "Conservative" to get a sentence that was equally true (or equally false):

The original user's comment was:
"Liberals are so hypocritic­al when it comes to choice. It is choice until they disagree with it and then its a federal mandate."

Changing the word makes it this:
"Conservatives are so hypocritic­al when it comes to choice. It is choice until they disagree with it and then its a federal mandate."

So, this statement could be considered true of people labeled as "Liberals." But, if so, it's equally true of people labeled "Conservatives." Conservatives say they want small government, but not if it's for issues they support. They're fine with a bloated military and having the Federal government raid state-approved medical marijuana facilities, etc. So many of these statements can have right/left or Liberal /Conservative interchanged. People are being blinded by their erroneous sense of self-rightness and the erroneous sense of wrongness of "the other side."

I would suggest everyone calm down, get off your high horse, realize we all want very similar things in life and try this ego-busting, enlightening exercise: take "the other sides" point of view and argue for their case. Do it SINCERELY. Even if it's just in the privacy of your thoughts.

No doubt the thought of doing so brings up feelings of fear or resentment. All the more reason to do so. At the very least, you might find "the other side" are not a bunch of stupid/evil/corrupt/irresponsible troublemakers. (They are human beings, your fellow human beings, and in this case, your fellow Americans. They  love their families as you do. They want peace and an abundant life as you do.) At the most, you might find your concrete views softened enough to allow for real dialogue and you will stop being the source of the problem (unceasing conflict) and part of the solution (creative, cooperative thinking and communication) . If we don't stop this violent verbal barrage and fake polarizing of the country, things are going to get worse and worse.

The answer is not for one of these fictional sides to win, the answer is for us to learn to live together respectfully (if not lovingly) and create a brilliant society for all with the incredible human resources we have at our disposal. This begins with open minds and respectful, open dialogue. It begins with caring more about everyone's wellbeing than your own point of view. It begins with letting go the idea that you have to be right. Being right won't make you happy. Loving and being loved will.


  1. Recently I have been reflecting on fighting fair. It seems like the essence of a fair argument is to try and see it from the other person's side. But if you focus on winning then its easy to loose that compassion. Once compassion is lost then everyone tends to lose. Its often better to search for a win-win than a win-lose position in an argument. Well, that's my opinion on it anyways. :)


  2. Agreed. The answer is not winning, nor is it even compromise. The answer, as much as there is one, is dialogue. Dialogue is an open exchange of ideas. With dialogue, creative and sometimes unexpected results happen which may even make the seeming problem reveal itself as not really a problem at all. There is a fantastic short book about this by David Bohm (Einstein's protege) called On Dialogue.