Do we have to always make our point? Must we always fight to the end? When can we call it quits and gracefully bow out of an argument?
I have struggled with these questions most of my life. My mom often told me, “You would argue with a fencepost.” For the longest, I had no idea what she meant until my imagination played out the scene and I “saw” the ridiculous situation. She was right. I argue with anyone who will let me. I even argue with myself. I hear debate in my head constantly. Those of you who have experienced interaction with me have learned I, oftentimes, don’t know when to quit. I pray I am becoming more gracious…but truly, this has been a 45 year struggle!
So when my husband brought home some new bathroom reading, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff …and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson, at first I wondered if it was aimed at me. Then after reading a couple of short chapters, I decided I didn’t care. Carlson does appear to be a Zen Buddhist, but who’s to say they don’t have some good things to contemplate? Personally, I’ve found quite a bit worth thinking over. This excerpt is from his most recent nugget of truth I have discovered:
…you are given many opportunities to choose between being kind and being right. You have chances to point out to someone their mistakes, things they could or should have done differently, ways they can improve. You have chances to “correct” people, privately as well as in front of others. What all these opportunities amount to are chances to make someone else feel bad, and yourself feel bad in the process.
Without getting too psychoanalytical about it, the reason we are tempted to put others down, correct them, or show them how we’re right and they’re wrong is that our ego mistakenly believes that if we point out how someone else is wrong, we must be right, and therefore we will feel better.
In actuality, however, if you pay atttention to the way you feel after you put someone down, you’ll notice that you feel worse than before the put-down. Your heart, the compassionate part of you, knows that it’s impossible to feel better at the expense of someone else.
Luckily, the opposite is true–when your goal is to build people up, to make them feel better, to share in their joy, you too reap the rewards of their positive feelings. The next time you have the chance to correct someone, even if their facts are a little off, resist the temptation. Instead, ask yourself, “What do I really want out of this interaction?” Chances are , what you want is a peaceful interaction where all parties leave feeling good. Each time you resist “being right,” and instead choose kindness, you’ll notice a peaceful feeling within….
Don’t confuse this strategy with being a wimp, or not standing up for what you believe in. I’m not suggesting that it’s not okay for you to be right–only that if you insist on being right, there is often a price to pay–your inner peace. In order to be a person filled with equanimity, you must choose kindness over being right, most of the time. The best place to start is with the next person you speak to.
Now I will resist the temptation to correct a couple of things, but I do want to add — kindness is one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Many of the characteristics seem to speak of being “nice.”
Whatever happened to just being nice? For fun