People should never be ashamed to own they have been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday. -Alexander Pope
I’ve always been afraid to make mistakes and have other people judge me because of them. Somewhere along the line, I fell into the trap of thinking that mistakes were somehow wrong and that they somehow are a reflection of me as a person. It’s always been important to me to be “right,” no matter what the circumstances.
This need to be right has put a huge burden on me, one that I never deserved to have to carry. Part of it, I know, is cultural–in this age of information at a moment’s notice, we’ve come to expect people to have answers–the right answers–at the drop of a hat. I feel very fortunate that over the last decade or so I’ve been able to leave the need to be right behind me and move on with my life with a more healthy perspective.
I’m now willing not just to admit that I’m wrong, but also to stick my neck out with ideas or thoughts that may be wrong. The possibility of being wrong no longer threatens my emotional well-being; if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I learn from that.
In Paul Young’s song “Everything Must Change,” he sings: “I was never one to back out of an argument and say I was wrong / Even when I’d seen the other side, I’d hide my foolishness and carry on.” This line describes so many of us–continuing to argue even after it’s very clear that we’re wrong. But what’s wrong with being wrong? Absolutely nothing, and it’s even a great thing when we consider why we’re wrong and learn from it. If we take it too seriously and too personally, we’re in trouble. If we use it to help us to grow in wisdom, we’re right on course to a better life.
Questions to consider:
- Do you ever argue points about which you’re not completely sure? Why?
- How often do you say “I was wrong”? What are some barriers to saying so?
- Do we actually learn anything from being right, from saying something or giving information that we already knew to be right?
For further thought:
Wisdom is not to be obtained from textbooks, but must be coined out of human experience in the flame of life. -Morris Raphael Cohen