Happiness 5 of 5: Being right is wrong
So yesterday I was being a jerk.
This is not uncommon, as my family can tell you. I have many faults, and a sort of general know-it-all boorishness is one of them. In this case, I got into an argument about a disease I happened to have an interest in and had read some articles about. I insisted scientists had recently found the cause of this disease, and my interlocutor insisted they hadn't.
Well. I'm a writer, and I get paid to read stuff. Which pretty much convinced me I was right about the disease, even though I couldn't remember any of the details, and hadn't taken notes, and couldn't even remember how long ago I had read these articles. But neither had the other person, and I, let's not forget, am the writer/researcher. I figured that made my half-forgotten internet article more reliable than his.
Eventually I won, but largely because of my credentials and my willingness to wield them in battle. I didn't feel triumphant.
I felt like a bully.
Well, it's more like I sort of felt like a bully in a thin, transparent way, sort of sneaking around underneath feeling like I was RIGHT. (I'm not talking about, two people are both trying to figure out what's right and I happen to end up being right. I'm talking about, both people are trying to insist that they are the one who is right, and the real right answer is just a weapon in that fight)
Any sense of accomplishment I might have felt was spoiled by that diaphanous suspicion that I had behaved badly.
But I was RIGHT!
Which is quite a satisfying feeling--it's powerful and secure to feel absolutely right about something. But it's not happy, or content, or compassionate, or loving. It's a feeling that depends on someone else being wrong, and on me caring that they're wrong. It's a feeling that we only get by putting that barrier -
the "who's wrong and who's right" barrier -
between us. It makes us enemies, it makes us winners and losers, it makes us separate. But as human beings, what makes us happy is the extent to which we are not separate but connected. What makes us happy is being together.
The idea that winning an argument, or showing ourselves to be powerful, will make us happy is one of the great lies of our age. I would have been much better off to drop the entire argument than to win it, because by doing so I built a barrier between myself and someone I love. And all I gained with that barrier was the sense of being RIGHT and superior
Choose, rather, to be kind. To listen, to drop it, to learn, to ask questions. Choose to do the things that bring you closer to others instead of farther apart.