Here are the two single quotes that changed my life the most:
“The only thing that I admit when I say that I am wrong is that I am more intelligent today than I was yesterday.” I read that quote, or something like it, when I was fourteen. The next quote I didn’t hear until I was in my late twenties.
“It’s better to be nice than it is to be right.”
Now I grew up the way I grew up, and I had to overcome what I had to overcome. Your life has been quite different than mine. If, for instance, you are a woman who was taught to be a people-pleaser, then I would never say to you that it’s important to be nice. I’d say to you, “If you want to say no, that’s a good enough reason to say no.”
And right now, that’s my point.
In order for us to get right, we first have to go too far in the opposite direction of whatever toxicity it is we grew up with.
If you are a male who always wimped out at the first sign of trouble, maybe you need to hear a father figure say, “Don’t be such a pussy.” That’s exactly what one of my closest friends needed to hear. On the other had, I obviously would never say that to someone who is transgender.
Another friend used to be fond of saying, “Everything is my fault.” It’s how she learned to take responsibility for her life choices. It’s just odd for me to hear that because I work with so much domestic violence, and abuse victims often say, “Everything is my fault.” It’s why they go back, making excuses for their abuser and taking the blame themselves.
But there’s more to this.
I needed to learn to quit trying to win arguments. I needed to learn to shut up and listen. I needed to learn to pay attention to emotions. I would have destroyed my life, as many of you are doing now, if I hadn’t let go of the need to be right. I went too far at first, of course, and was often silent when I should have spoken up. But that was necessary.
I had to go too far because I didn’t know when to stop. How could I? I had grown up thinking that being right was what justified me as a human being. How was I going to overcome something that was so consistently drilled into my head without an extreme effort? And so of course I pushed too far. That’s what happens when you exert force.
Then I had to correct myself, but that was easy to do because I had already proved to myself that I could change.
You’re not going to end up in that place of calm enlightenment, at the center of the storm, without plowing through the wind, the rain and the fog. You’re going to have to be very wrong about many things until you can gain enough perspective to get right.
So if you are still struggling with the junk you got indoctrinated with in childhood, if you are still trying to get over what you experienced as a teenager and a young adult, here’s me giving you permission. Go ahead be wrong. Go a thousand miles an hour in the wrong direction. Be too confident, too kind, too angry, too respectful, too selfish, too giving, too loving, too cold. I wish I could give people a one-size-fits-all method of self-improvement, but none exists. So be wrong.