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The Importance of Being Right

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Come free of the net of right and wrong.
W.B. Yeats (Nobel laureate for poetry)

I want to be right. When someone tells me I'm wrong, my first reaction is to feel invalidated and threatened. I have a desperate desire to strike back. I don't want to consider whether they're right; I want to insist that I'm right and they're wrong.

If I were able to add up the amount of time and energy I've used to prove myself right, I'd be shocked. (Just imagining it, I'm shocked.)

Sometimes I need to be right about little things, like an insurance claim, drivers who tailgate, or the fact that my bank needs more tellers. I may also need to be right about really big things, like politics and war. I confess that I also need to be right in any relationship conflict.

The Big Picture

The need to be right begins in early childhood. Very young children are still sufficiently connected to infinite wisdom and a sense of the eternal nature of their souls to be free of this need. Older children, having lost or weakened that connection, feel insecure in a big world loaded with rules, prohibitions, and unexpected punishments. They think their survival depends on knowing what's right.

They feel most threatened when someone suggests or they suspect they're wrong. They've learned from their parents that nothing is more important than being right. If they hear adults arguing, they may easily come to the conclusion that being right is a matter of life or death.

As they grow older and go to school, they learn more lessons about the importance of being right. Failing to know the right way to spell, punctuate, or solve mathematical problems leads to low grades and big trouble in school and at home. The wrong clothes, attitudes, or background can lead to ostracism and adolescent misery.

Right Equals Safe

On a very basic level, then, in order to be safe we have to be right. Being right means physical and social survival. It also means emotional survival.

It gets tied up with that most important emotional need: self-esteem. If we're right we get to feel good about ourselves. If we're wrong we get to feel bad about ourselves. Since feeling good about ourselves has a lot to do with survival-in the sense that people who feel good about themselves have happier and possibly longer lives-being right takes on deepened importance.

But is it important enough when we consider the costs?

The High Price of Being Right

As I mentioned at the beginning, it takes a lot of time and energy to consistently be right. Business and organizational meetings take much longer when two or more people are determined to be right, and it takes a lot of energy to verbally overpower someone else who has the nerve to think (s)he's right.

People also need to devote a certain amount of time and energy to developing thick skins so that they can fend off the hostile vibrations of those people who think they're really wrong for needing to be right. During and after a meeting that went on an hour or so longer than it might have, the "right" people will encounter a lot of this.

Someone who needs to be right also doesn't get much chance to relax. If you're going to be right, you've also got to be on your toes, in order to notice when someone else is wrong. You also need to protect against the possibility that you might make a mistake and be wrong. Stress and tension are generally not very good for physical/emotional health. You may notice that people who need to be right may suffer from digestive disorders, neck, shoulder, and back pain, and any number of other imbalances.

Those who need to be right also find that there's little room in their lives for growth and transformation. When people start to tread on unknown ground, it becomes more difficult to know what are the right and the wrong things to do. They might make mistakes; in fact, they probably will. That fear alone has kept many safe and unhappy in dull, predictable lives.

Love is Right's Victim

The greatest cost, though, is paid in terms of our relationships. How many marriages and partnerships have been destroyed because people decided it was more important to be right than to be loving?

You can't be both at the same time. Imagine love as a flowing river that gets interrupted by a series of dams that weaken and drain away its force. Any conditions block the natural flow and power of love.

To say, or in some other manner convey the message, "I will love you as long as I feel what you do, say, and think is right," is to make a statement that has nothing to do with love. This is approval, and approval is to love as the heat from a flashlight is to a roaring fire, i.e., cold comfort.

You can test this for yourself. Think of someone who's important in your life, a person who's wrong about something important. When you think about how wrong they are, do you feel love for them?

Coming Free of the Net

Have you noticed that the more you tell others they're wrong, the more likely you are to have people in your life who tell you you're wrong?

Here's one way to look at the net of right and wrong. Think of it as a volleyball, tennis, or badminton net and wrong as the ball or birdie that the players on either side propel at each other. However, unlike these games, which have specific rules, the game of right and wrong goes on until someone stops playing.

It might as well be you.

"But how?" you may ask yourself. "We're dealing with some real issues here: people who don't clean up after themselves, people who make terrible business decisions or don't do their homework or are inconsiderate or spend more money than they should."

I know about those people, and the world would probably be a much better place without their wretched behavior. However, as long as I'm looking for people to be wrong, I'm certain to find them. The only one in the world I can really change is me, in terms of my feelings and behavior.

Moving Beyond Right and Wrong

The first step is to fully acknowledge and own that you, too, do things that others might consider wrong. This is tricky because some people are all too ready to do this and to take this step even further by blaming themselves, making themselves completely wrong, and feeling very guilty about it. Then, because guilt is a particularly unpleasant feeling, they will take that wrong ball and throw it at someone else. And the game continues.

One way to keep this from happening is to make this whole business of right and wrong less important. Probably there are only three or four eternal truths; everything else is someone's opinion. That doesn't mean people shouldn't put the milk away; it does mean that failing to do so hardly even counts as a misdemeanor.

Some conflicts can't be put away as easily as the milk, like how the children should be raised, where you and your spouse want to move or how you see your relationship. These are probably far less questions of right or wrong than they are relationship and communication issues.

I recommend you visit the web page where past articles from this newsletter are archived, and look at the articles under the heading, About Relationships. You may also be interested in our email course on love, which you can read about further along in this newsletter.

Being Patient: With Them and With Yourself

Making people wrong is usually the habit of a lifetime, and you probably often practice it without knowing it. Begin to catch yourself. If you feel particularly brave, ask someone to tell you when you're doing your right-wrong routine.

Choose this person wisely, making sure they aren't going to tell you how wrong you are for making other people wrong. Likewise, don't make yourself wrong for making others wrong. It's just something you do, and you're going to get over it.

Learn to separate people from their behavior. This is especially important with children, who have less distinct boundaries between who they are and what they do. However, when it comes to being wrong, many of us feel like oversized children.

When you're about to launch or are immersed in an orgy of right-wrong, ask yourself these questions:

The more you can answer "No" to each of these questions, the closer you are to releasing judgment from your life.

The Right Crystals

Green calcite is excellent for releasing the emotional rigidities that often are part of a need to be right. It's especially helpful in releasing the stress patterns that accompany this need.

Charoite, which essentially deals with fear, helps to bring to the surface the fear of being wrong. Once we are able to honestly look at the fear, our ability to release it increases.

Amethyst, the color of twilight, helps to teach us that, just as at dawn and dusk, the distinctions between day and night blur, so can, if we allow them to, the distinctions between right and wrong.

From a distance, the difference between right and wrong is also difficult to see, and Hawk's eye helps to provide an aerial perspective. When we are entangled in our notions of right and wrong (or any fixed pattern of being) hawk's eye can help to provide distance.

The Right Essences

Beech, the classic Bach Flower Remedy for judgment, teaches us that all judgment is self-judgment. We give ourselves an enormous gift when we take Beech to release this attitude.

Some people are not happy being right unless they can enroll the world in their right beliefs. They can benefit from the Bach Flower Remedy Vervain, which helps us to allow differences in beliefs and practices.

Beaver (Wild Earth Animal Essences) is an animal of great flexibility who builds several entrances and exits to its den. This animal has no worries about the right way to get in and out, and its medicine helps us to be more flexible in how we build our own worlds.

One of the best antidotes to the seriousness of being right is the energy of playful Otter (Wild Earth). How important are right and wrong when you're having a good time?

Beyond the Rainbow
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