Is There Really a “Right” and “Wrong”?
By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso
I felt like starting today off with a little reflection. I actually have a bit of a headache but my mind feels active today. Maybe that means I’ll accomplish some things today. Recently I’ve been trying to make more efforts to try and learn more about communication and emotions. Also recently I described an incident with my parents that was very upsetting to me where they basically decided to just start discussing how awful it was to have to talk to me while I was basically just barely around the corner and still in earshot. When I told my mother I heard it and it hurt me she responded by basically saying they were right to be able to have a conversation and that I was mean. Her response whether intentional or not was to automatically make the situation my fault and not hers and that’s been bothering me for a while.
But while I was laying in bed pinned under my buff Rottie, Naomi, who decided she wanted to cuddle this morning I got to thinking. Now I’ve been raised in a home my entire life run by a father who has always insisted on being right. I was basically raised with the idea that he was in fact always right and I wonder if in a way that urge to pass the buck on personal responsibility isn’t something that lingers in our household even now. Psychologically we pick up behaviors from our living environments quite often and sometimes without realizing it. So I wanted to challenge myself for a moment and instead of thinking about the incident just as I would, I forced myself to think about it from the point of view where I broke the incident down into parts instead of my normal process of going right for figuring out who was wrong. Doing that made me realize that looking at the situation without bias made both sides right and wrong.
This realization and new approach not only made me less angry and able to accept and understand the situation, but also made me feel more of a weight of personal responsibility that balanced out my feelings of being offended. While my parents were in fact right that they had a right to have a discussion as a married couple, it is always wrong when we discount another person’s feelings no matter how justified the hurtful act is. If we’ve done something and it hurt someone, the impact is what matters and not the intention. If I for instance accidentally stab you while carrying a knife, saying I didn’t mean to stab you won’t replace getting you medical treatment or change that you’re wounded. Regardless of how right or wrong I am, the right thing to do in that moment is to take responsibility for and make an effort to fix the damage I’ve caused.
That’s an extreme comparison at first glance but it is in fact a pretty accurate one if you think about it. But while I was perfectly in the right to be hurt, I did the same thing my mother did and inadvertently started to figure out how the other person was wrong and that made me unable to see that they were logical to misunderstand my flat affect and monotone as “mean”. It set the foundation for me to blow the situation up into something more painful than it should have been and required me to downplay my parents’ feelings which didn’t need to happen.Looking at the situation without that heavy bias of trying to be right and do what’s best for me gave me a whole new perspective to the situation.
In a perfect world we could all have the insight to look at a situation as a whole with no bias instead of going on a witch hunt, but that’s not really the world we live in. We live in a world where many of us think primarily about ourselves, sometimes without doing it consciously. How many given situations would be much less then what we think they are when we look at them without the prerequisite of someone being right or wrong? How many of those situations would end up with both parties being a little bit of both? When I tried to apply the unbiased logic to other scenarios I’ve had in the past, I actually ran into most of them being situations where I and the other party were both a little right and a little wrong. In other words, we both brought something to the table and held part of the responsibility for the outcome.
The idea of personal responsibility is that you aren’t trying to win or lose. You’re trying to be a logical,fair and mature person. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s not about weighing whose feelings matter more. It’s an emotional compromise in many situations and it should be a learning experience. But at the end of the day, what value does being right have? Is it better to be right or wrong in a situation? When we’re right we get a sense of pride and this is perceived as a positive experience. That is perhaps why it is ideal for us to want to be the person who’s right in any given situation. We want to be the “winner”. But if you stop and think, we’re a winner because we lowered the value of someone else’s feelings and words and that prideful buzz is a temporary reward for most. But is it so bad to be wrong? Why are human beings so afraid of change and challenge? Being wrong even in part is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. That’s not exactly a second prize to laugh at in my book and it’s definitely not something to be ashamed of. It’s definitely something worth taking the time to think about.
In my opinion, I think people want to be right because it’s seen as a positive while being wrong defaults to being a negative. But being wrong doesn’t have to be a negative when we put a new perspective in place. The next time you have an interaction, try going in without the goal of being right or wrong and see if you notice a difference like I did. Maybe the true value of our interactions is found when we go in without bias and stay open to personal responsibility.
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