Has anyone ever recommended to you that, to be happy in a relationship, you should strive to be kind instead of right? It’s not a saying that we hear too often, but I can remember hearing it years ago. There’s a lot of truth to it. Welcome to Day Twenty Six of 30 Days to Forgiveness! The series is almost complete.
We like to be right, don’t we? Being able to tell someone “I told you so” makes us feel important and powerful. Hearing it on the other hand isn’t so nice, is it? While we all like to be right, we don’t appreciate being told we’re wrong.
Insisting on being right, even if you only think you are, can quickly turn you into a bully. I’m sure that’s the last thing you want to be. Yet for some reason, it seems to come more natural to us than being kind and considerate.
Most of us want to be better, to get a step above others. Too often, we strive to out-Jones the Jones. We – people in general – do things regularly to compete with those around us with the aim that we come out on top.
Obviously, this is greatly affected by culture, but even if you’re in a culture that doesn’t stress competition, are you truly immune from it? It’s a survival instinct that I suppose we have put to good use since our early days. Luckily, though, most of us no longer need to be right – dominantly, insistently right – in order to survive.
It’s okay to be wrong sometimes.
A friend of mine has a t-shirt that says “Once I thought I was wrong … but I was mistaken.” We laugh, but how many of us behave like that?
Today we live in a world that requires more cooperation and interaction than ever. Much of what we do both for a living and for fun is based on or around emotional relationships with others. Yet the desire to be right is still there.
It’s how we protect our ego and our self-confidence.
If you are used to protecting yourself by always being right (even when you’re not) or pointing out to others just how right you are, then you are going to find it difficult to lower your defenses and be wrong sometimes. It’s worth doing. You probably don’t like being around someone who is always right, so can you imagine how it feels to others if you’re the one doing it?
Changing this can help us cultivate stronger and more nourishing relationships with others. It will also allow those around you to open up and take chances. They will be more likely to say things that might be wrong if they know you won’t immediately pounce on them.
What does this have to do with forgiveness?
It’s about treating people right and creating an environment that encourages kindness, joy and cooperation. That sort of environment doesn’t happen when everyone is busy clinging our need to be right and to be better than those around us.
Kindness, though, can do it.
Have you ever seen the drawing where two people are looking at a number drawn on the ground. One says that it’s a 9. The other insists that it’s a 6. And of course, they’re both right.
Sometimes all it takes is stepping back and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. It’s possible for both of you to be right.
Let me give you an example from my life. Recently I went to a wonderful convention in Utah. After a week of meeting amazing new friends and making connections and having so much fun I thought my heart would explode, I got up early and headed home. Perhaps I should note that I went to bed around 2:30 am, and the 3 hour time zone difference meant that I was a bit off-kilter all week.
At 5:45 am, I landed at the airport.
Remember, I’m in Utah at this point … and my home is all the way on the east coast. I reach Canada in the early evening and I have completely crashed from my exciting week. All I want to do is go home and crawl into my bed, but I still have a two hour flight to get from Toronto to Halifax and then a two hour drive in the car. I’m so tired.
At that point, I call home to let my darling spouse know that I was finally in Canada and would be arriving in the Martimes around 9. Yes, 9 pm. It was a very long day. He wants to let me know that he has been working hard to get the house looking wonderful before my arrival.
Do you remember that he has autism?
And I’m standing in the busy Toronto airport, wishing that I could put a bubble around myself. Too many people. This extrovert was completely peopled out.
The first words out of his mouth were “I’ve made some changes” and then he wanted to tell me about them. That conversation didn’t go well.
My plane landed just as a snowstorm started, so instead of giving me a hug and a warm greeting, he was very focused on getting us home safely.
Looking back, neither of us were in the wrong.
I was exhausted and overwhelmed.
He was excited that I was safely home and then worried about the weather.
It made for some terrible misunderstandings and an awful fight, but working through it afterwards helped both of us understand each other a lot more.
Sometimes, though, the other person is wrong.
How does kindness work then? Well, in that case, think about how you would feel if it were reversed. How would it feel to be told that you were wrong and the other person was right? Even when we are wrong, sometimes it is difficult to hear. While we might say in advance that we want to hear when we’re wrong, do we? Honestly?
The truth is, when I’m most in the wrong … well, that’s when I least want to hear it!yuuyh
When we can put ourselves in the other’s shoes, it makes it easier to be kind to them. This makes it easier to forgive, too, and that extends past the specific situation and into the rest of your life. The more you learn to put yourself in the other’s position, the more you become a kinder and more forgiving person.