Years and years ago, after I’d made a particularly silly mistake… while driving… and talking on my cell phone…the driver I’d inadvertently cut off (because I didn’t see him, of course) followed me up the street screaming out his window until I pulled over and he could properly shame me on the side of the road. I was quite taken aback, as you can imagine, and when I nodded at him, eyes wide and face flushed, he seemed to be somewhat taken aback himself – and went speeding around me and off down the road.
At home, flustered and defensive, I relayed the story to my then-boyfriend who listened patiently as flitted through the house telling him about how shameful it was for this man to berate me like that, and geeze! people make mistakes, and in the great big world…, and respect!, and patience! … before he leaned into the office where I had finally sat down and said, “Jaci. It’s ok to be wrong.”
I don’t quite remember what happened after that, although I do remember first feeling very defensive in front of my boyfriend, and then feeling some guilt. You know, that maybe, perhaps, it was possible, he might have been right. With this much hindsight, I’m sure he was. They both were.
I’m not sure it would be accurate to attribute the impending postulation to this particular incident. But irregardless of the source, I have come to an understanding in my adult self that the words “I was wrong” are among the most powerful in the English language. Yes, of course, in the classic guy-and-girl-in-a-romantic-long-term-committed-relationship kind of way, and even in the beautifully-unorthodox-AND-still-challenging-romantic-relationship kind of way, but here, I’d mostly like to talk about how these three little words are so beautifully powerful in LIFE.
I have personally witnessed relationships of all kinds; familial, professional, personal… crack – and even eventually break – from those early battles wherein one party, instead of admitting any wrongdoing, doubles down on their ‘right-ness’, effectively launching the other party into a whirlwind of how-can-you-possibly-believe-that’s-true?! type defensiveness. Neither, of course, helping the situation.
Whether with vicious words we don’t mean, spoken in the heat of an argument, or with a general disrespect of the other person’s feelings… whether civil or violent, whether personal or public, among strangers or among friends, nothing good can come from this kind of situation. What is it about us that makes us feel as though we HAVE to be ‘right’? And what is ‘right’ anyway, except one person’s perception of a situation in which they may or may not actually be involved?
So why do we do it?
Somewhere along the line we equated “right” with “valuable” and “wrong” with “invaluable” and therefore have a perpetual, knee-jerk-type-response that dictates we MUST be’ right’. Even if we are wrong we must find a WAY to be ‘RIGHT’. Without ‘right’, we aren’t good or valuable or lovable.
I realize this isn’t exactly news to anyone. So why aren’t we changing?
Maybe we’re taking the wrong approach.
What if we could love ourselves enough; so deeply, so thoroughly, that we knew we were valuable? At the very core… that the true essence of our soul selves was fundamentally and profoundly beautiful and important and loved – at the very least by us… maybe then, ‘right’ wouldn’t matter so much.
I know, I know… surprise, surprise… the “love yourself more” woman is telling you to love yourself more… but here’s the thing; I really think it could work.
What if, instead of trying to “forgive” ourselves for being wrong, what if we *gasp*, EMBRACED being wrong.
Because here’s the other thing… perhaps the craziest thing of all.
In my own life, at least, I was shocked to discover that “I was wrong” …. is SO EMPOWERING!!!
Contrary to making me feel weak, or in any way “less than”, it felt … good!
Initially, I think, because “I was wrong” is also an admission of the possibility of imperfection; yes. I’m imperfect. I’m human. I also love myself IN my imperfection. It’s part of what makes me, me. It also makes me wrong sometimes.
Upon closer inspection, however, this admission (along with many others) also does so many other wonderful things!
First, it brings down the whole high-pitched tone of the situation. If I’m admitting I’m wrong, the other guy doesn’t have to battle with me to prove his ‘right-ness’. He can relax. So can I, actually. I can feel safer knowing I’m not likely going to be hit over the head with a dictionary in the interest of point-making.
Secondly, admitting I was wrong makes me – at the very least – on an equal playing field with the other guy; we’re both flawed. Chances are REEEEEEAAALLLLLLYYYYYY good that he’s been wrong at least once in his life too.
Third, should the other person need, they can now chest-bump or tail-feather-wag or shirt-puff all they want in order to feel good about the situation. They have every right to that behavior. They were right. And another beautiful thing is… I don’t have to feel anything about it! Their ‘right-ness’ does not speak anything about me. It’s a simple truth; they were right. My ‘wrong-ness’ also does not speak anything about me. I was wrong. I still love myself. I still have lots of wonderful, beautiful gifts to share with the world. Being right about this particular thing isn’t one of them, but there are lots of others.
AND AND AND! I LEARNED SOMETHING!!!!
Lastly, the worlds “I was wrong” open the door to resolution. Now that the battle – real or perceived – is over, I can let go and move on. Or, I can lend a hand in helping to clean up any mess I may have made in my ‘wrong-ness’. Perhaps I can even help Mr. Right execute his ‘right’ idea.
And, if I’m really, really, really lucky – the next time I’m right, the other person won’t be afraid to be wrong either, and they will help me with my ‘right’ idea.