Why I Love Being Wrong
I love being Wrong. More precisely, I love the freedom that comes with allowing myself to be Wrong. Most people want to be Right all of the time; they are terrified that one of their Rights will turn out to be a Wrong. The fear of being Wrong makes us indentured servants to the opinions of others. Giving ourselves permission to be Wrong may be the most Right thing we ever do.
There once was a land called Right. In the Land of Right all things had to be correct. All buildings were made with Right angles, and all streets were straight as an arrow. Schools were silent because the children wordlessly memorized facts from “validated” textbooks. Right Shop, the only store in town, had no competition because no one dared to be Wrong.
There wasn’t anything that we would recognize as a conversation in the Land of Right. Instead, Rightians carried indexed textbooks wherever they went. If two Rightians met and wished to converse, they would flip to various pages in their textbook and recite validated “facts” to each other.
One day, a Wise Man from the World of Wrong received Wrong directions and stumbled into the Land of Right. The Wise Man was bewildered by what he saw. He stopped a Rightian in the street and said:
“What’s going on here? Doesn’t anyone realize there is no absolute Right?”
The Rightian looked bewildered and said nothing, so the Wise Man continued.
“Textbooks are just opinions with a binder. Be careful not mistake the subjective for the objective.”
The Rightian just continued to stare blankly at the Wise Man. And before long the Wise Man shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and wandered off in Wrong direction.
The Rightian returned to his job at Right Shop but was unable to concentrate. Finally he decided that he’d ask his boss what the Wise Man’s words meant. But as soon as the Rightian shared the blasphemous words of the Wise Man, his Boss fired him for being Wrong.
The Rightian walked dismally back to his home but found an eviction notice on his front door. He tried to get a room at the Right Hotel, but word had spread that this Rightian was not to be trusted because he was Wrong.
The Rightian wandered out of town and walked aimlessly all night until the first rays of sunlight courted the fog of dawn. The Rightian looked around in amazement at the lush valley that he had inadvertently stumbled into during the night. At the center of the green valley there was a small wooden hut with a thin stream of smoke rising from it.
The Rightian hurried towards the hut, desperate to find out where he was. When the Rightian arrived at the hut he rapped twice on the door. To his surprise he recognized the man who opened the door as the Wise Man from the day before. The Wise Man just smiled, ushering the Rightian into his home.
“Where am I?” asked the Rightian.
“You are in the World of Wrong my friend,” the Wise Man said as he poured his companion some tea.
“What is the World of Wrong? It’s not in any of our textbooks.”
“I wouldn’t think so,” said the Wise Man. “The goldfish cannot describe the ocean from within its bowl. Likewise, people who believe they are always Right cannot see the rest of the World beyond their own convictions.”
The Rightian smiled, finally understanding the Wise Man’s words from the day before. The two companions then shared a morning tea together. When they were done the Rightian stood, thanked the Wise Man, and set out on the Wrong path to explore the expansive and wonderful World of Wrong for himself.
The Land of Right is not entirely fictitious; it is alive and well in our schools, businesses, and most other sectors of our society. In school we must select the Right answer to earn a “good” grade. At work we must speak the Right words to win the approval of our business partners. And if we do not act in the Right manner in our social arena we are ostracized and shamed.
There is a profound claustrophobia in always needing to be Right. To be clear, I do not advocate for a blasé approach towards life in which we cease all striving and settle for being Wrong all of the time. Quite the contrary, I believe that giving ourselves permission to be Wrong can allow us to reach for the stars without being afraid of falling short.
The fear of being Wrong comes from a lack of self-esteem. Without a healthy internal foundation, our sense of Self must find an anchor in the external world. The concept of being Right acts as a mooring to ground us in the turbulent sea of reality. When a friend agrees with us, a professor praises our correct answer, or we receive a commendation at work, our sense of Self feels anchored by this Rightness and finds a temporary respite from the storm of change.
However, just as night follows the day, Wrongness is never far behind Rightness. Our friend disagrees, we provide a Wrong answer, or we are critiqued at work. If we tether ourselves to being Right, we must accept its shadow: Wrong.
It is plain to see that a sense of Self that relies on external Right and Wrong will be at the mercy of a fickle current. Only a sense of Self, heavy with its own fortitude, is immune to the maelstrom of Right and Wrong.
With a strong sense of Self we can speak our mind, take an educated guess, or strive at work without fear of being Right or being Wrong. With a healthy Self we are able to see the arbitrary nature of Right and Wrong.
Part of the joy of being human is indulging in our imperfection. How wonderful to be invulnerable to the judgment of Right and Wrong. Without this judgment we could just be our creative selves without fear of reproach.
Creativity lives at the edge of certainty. To discover new things we must leave the established body of knowledge behind and step out into the void of the unknown. The creative void does not distinguish between Right and Wrong; and neither should we.
The next time you find yourself in a disagreement, observe yourself closely. Feel the need to be Right burn hot in the depths of your stomach. Watch the argument devolve as each side digs deeper into their Right trenches. Notice how the central article of the disagreement is lost in the cannon fire of Rightiosity.
Now make a mindful choice and step back from the argument. You don’t need to give in to your temporary adversary. Just release your grip on being Right. Notice how your shoulders relax, your facial muscles loosen, and the need to be Right is washed away. Also be aware of the change that comes over your adversary. You will notice that the air between the two of you feels less thick.
If you choose to, come back to the issue at hand and discuss it now. Appreciate the ease with which your conversation flows when not so attached to being Right. Congratulate both yourself and your companion on overcoming the incessant need to be Right.