Happy New Year! May 2024 be filled with opportunities to be wrong and learn from it!
In the closing months and weeks of 2023, my awareness turned over and again to the apparent addiction suffered by all human beings to being right. We do tend to love it, don’t we?
I have been noticing, throughout the holidays, that much of what passes for conversation can sound more like a ping-pong match of traded opinions. It’s always tickled me when someone says “it’s just my opinion”, seeming to believe, as we all do, that they would be open to changing their mind. I suspect that the subtitle for “it’s just my opinion” is “and I’m right!” Otherwise, why would the person be holding that opinion in the first place?
As I’ve pondered this dilemma, this need humans appear to have to a point of view, I’ve noticed that it seems extremely hard for us to not be right, which might allow us to be humble and stay clear of being self-righteous.
Because, the real truth is we make mistakes. Lots of them. We get it wrong. There are many times (maybe, indeed, more often than not) when we are more wrong than right. So, this attachment to our point of view becomes a stumbling block to learning.
Because it is not so much that we fail – no, not at all – that is an inevitable part of life, of living and growing. What seems to me to be far more relevant is the way in which we fail. Mostly, we have been raised by humans who also held on to their opinions, no matter what, (themselves taught by people who did the same). As a result, repeatedly when we “got it wrong” we experienced shame.
We therefore arrive to adulthood ourselves with so much shame attached to making mistakes, not knowing, being uncertain and afraid, that we go into hiding around the process of failing. And in that hiding – I suspect – lies our downfall. Because whilst hiding we cannot process and learn from the apparent failure, from having not known, from having gotten it wrong, and therefore from feeling that we are wrong.
To compound it all, we react badly to one another when failing, further denying ourselves the chance to learn. So, contrary to the age-old adage, we do not learn from our mistakes. Instead, we suffer from them, and turn them into exhausting baggage which we secretly carry around with us.
As if this weren’t enough to contend with, such is our fear of getting it wrong, that we place unreasonable expectations on each other to never let one another down! Oh boy!
I’m of the seemingly oxymoronic view that keeping humble is a super-power! This requires replacing the addiction to self-righteous opinion with the habit of inquiry. Particularly when faced with another’s opinion with which you do not agree!
(Also keep your readers on for a current profound paradox emerging from this inquiry for me which is the question: “how do I remain open to other’s perspectives, whilst still being able to hold a boundary around that which is unacceptable to me?” This has also raised the question: “what makes something unacceptable to me, and how can I be boundaried about it, without having to be right?” More on these in newsletters to come!)
I’ve been practicing – and failing with an extraordinary degree of regularity! It is astonishing how quickly I devolve to a point of view rather than a genuine question borne of interest! But I am committed to this practice for 2024, so expect to hear more from me as to whether I am getting any better at it!
Here are a few other things, consistent with this theme, that I’ve been noticing, and valuing and wanted to share – perhaps as possible inspirations for what we might try so as to cultivate a love of being wrong, and learning from it!
Cultivate a practice of making things, people, situations right vs. making them wrong;
Have nothing to prove and much to contribute;
Be awestruck daily;
The sublime and the ridiculous co-exist in daily life – don’t take it personally!;
Notice that connection is all around us, wanting to happen;
Notice that if what the other person is needing conflicts with what I am needing that doesn’t make either of us wrong;
An unmet need can result in our being kidnapped by our disappointed and frustrated inner child: however we do have an adult self that can witness;
Let go, let come and get out of the way!;
Search for each other’s light;
Stay open and alert to the unfolding present moment and watch for the temptation to slip into being fixed. There is no such thing as “here we go again!”
So here is to a year of glorious learning, of growing one year older (and hopefully wiser), without having to take ourselves too seriously. And to honing the art of getting it wrong gracefully, with humility, and with genuine compassion for self and others.