Just Because It’s True, Doesn’t Mean It’s Helpful (Or, Why Being Right is Wrong)
Do you want to be right, or do you want to be an ally? This is the question you have to answer. And it’s best to decide before opening your mouth.
You have to ask yourself, is the point of this conversation retaliation or communication? Choose wisely, because what you choose decides the direction of that conversation thereafter. Retaliation escalates; communication dissipates.
Everyone has the right to voice their opinion. Having a difference of opinion does not invalidate another’s. Now, I must pause to state that opinions which infringe upon another person’s right to live and exist are not opinions, rather misplaced judgments turned on their head to make the other person wrong.
An opinion would be:
“I don’t like this because…” or, “I think, feel that…”
When you respond to an opinion by invalidating how a person feels, thinks, or perceives—you are no longer helping or communicating. You’ve chosen retaliation.
Communication means finding something within the statement to relate to; alternatively, you could explicitly validate their feeling, thought, or perception and respond in kind with your own, albeit differing, view.
In a world where everyone thinks they’re right, what is the point of actually being right? Being right does not help two or more parties reach a consensus. When every person clings to their rightness, nothing changes. Nothing positive or negative can move forward.
Are we, as a society, so emotionally immature that our immediate, knee-jerk response is to lash out? To essentially throw mud at one another until someone takes it too far and slings shit?
What do you have to gain by being right?
Smug satisfaction. An internal pat on the back. A strange relief having put someone “in their place”.
Both parties walk away feeling, thinking, and perceiving in exactly the same way. Because as soon as their opinions are invalidated, their ability to listen shuts down. The reptilian brain kicks into high US vs. THEM mentality and the need to be right feels like fighting a sabertooth tiger for survival. But it isn’t.
What do you have to gain by being an ally?
Connection. Mutual understanding and compassion. Friends and new families. You may even, for a brief moment, glimpse the infinite web that holds us all together; you may even feel like the spider weaving and realize we’re all spiders weaving. And what a relief, a sincere relief, that will be. Maybe.
But not as long as it’s more important to be the “winner”. If you win a conversation, you have lost by the very nature of a conversation. If you converse and do not walk away with new questions, then you spoke too much and listened too little. When we lose the ability to think, feel, and perceive with another, we are as good as dead for we have stopped adapting. And when we cannot adapt, we do not evolve. And when we do not evolve, we die.
We have taken this aversion to adapting to small and large extremes: from ridding our social media feeds of people who disagree with us to waging all-out war. We’ve created laws which infringe on a person’s right to think, feel, and perceive the world in their own way. We are trying to rid the world of its diversity and we have been doing this throughout human history. But the hard-to-handle truth is that no one is right and everyone is right. The truth is that every person feels that they are the good guy, that their view is a good, sound, sensical one. And often, we back up these opinions, not with facts, but with the force of our emotion, with the force of our damaged, uncertain egos.
Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s helpful. We have lost sight of the fact that everything we do, we do to feel better. You want money, success, love, beauty, everything— because you think you will feel better in having it. And you probably would. But not in truth. If that were so, the rich, famous, loved, and most beautiful among would also be the happiest. They are not.
You think that by proving you are right, you will feel better. You will not. Perhaps for a moment, just like those external things we want—it makes us feel good for a moment. But clinging to your rightness is a lonely path, and by the very nature of our being, we need and thrive off of connection.
So what really do you have to gain by being an ally?
Joy. Happiness. A love without conditions for yourself and those around you. An understanding of our deeply ingrained similarities despite outward differences. Because at the end of the day, we are great waves rising up like tsunamis from the sea, but we are all ocean. And every wave will crash.
It is not what we gain in this life that makes us great; it’s not what we give either. It’s what we share in this life that makes us tall enough for the generations to come to see above and beyond what we once could. But in order to do that, in order to create that—we cannot afford to be divided. A single drop of water has no real power, but a consistent stream can erode any rock.
Our instinct has become to retaliate and it shows in the world around us. Whether online or in person, ask yourself one question before you respond to anyone or anything—do I want to be right or do I want to be an ally?
*originally published 7/2/16 when a Trump presidency seemed impossible. I must admit, I return to this piece with pause. Many parts are true, juicy in their resonance. But again, this is 2017 and we're facing a vastly different political climate than expected. It's hard. now, for me to not feel a sense of black and whiteness in regards to this current administration's clear disdain for progress. I pray to Allah, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Mother Mary, Kali, and Ganesha for strength, balance, peace, and justice in these uncertain times. May you be safe and loved, dear reader.