Being Right or Getting it Right?

Brene Brown recently asked if we are more interested in being right than getting it right. The answer is, in most cases, obvious. From mainstream to social media, being right is the goal. The only goal.

Rolling Stone magazine just ran a story about a hospital that treated so many ivermectin overdoses that gunshot victims had to wait untreated. It was a horrifying story except for one problem: it wasn’t true. They hadn’t treated ivermectin overdoses and no one went untreated. Woops. The magazine had to issue a “correction.”

For many years, I taught Rhetoric to high school juniors and seniors. If any of them had made that claim without backing it up, they would have seen a lot of red ink. And a grade that reflected lack of critical thinking. I don’t understand how we can teach courses like calculus, but not logic, in our schools. No one looks at the media and observes a lack of math skills.

The truth is that most don’t even notice the lack of logic. I’m not sure what class teaches our kids how to think, reason, build arguments, or critically analyze them. If we want to give an opinion, we simply state it and lump all dissenters into some name-calling category. It’s the same on both sides.

Oh that we could collectively stop, take a deep breath, and agree to some ground rules: One, acknowledge two sides to every issue. Second, every claim must have supporting reasons. The degree to which one’s argument is strong is the degree in which the reasons—and supporting backing–are strong. Third, apply the assumption of good will to others and don’t use vitriol.

And no matter the issue, we focus on getting it right. This most often involves recognizing that information is continually changing, “facts” take time to verify, and everyone has a different ground level of belief. Perhaps we could stop judging people as good or bad based on how their beliefs line up with our own.

Processing life can take a minute. At the core, we are all living, breathing, problem-swaddled people trying to do the best we can. The only way “being right” can work is if we surround ourselves with other “right” people. Ah, the love we feel for people just like us.

But feeling good isn’t love. It’s ego. To truly love another, we accept their value as a fellow human. To accept the vaxxer and anti-vaxxer, the one who is boycotting Texas and the one supporting the state’s ruling, the mask wearers and those who stand against.

I know people in all the various groups. And while the rhetoric on unsocial media is upsetting, the people behind it are likely trying to make sense of life. Perhaps fearful. Likely overwhelmed with it all. Human.

Being right is a quick process. We take a stand and practice name calling and finger pointing. Getting it right, however, is anything but quick. It’s a life-long process of learning to let go of our ego and learning to love those not like us. It doesn’t exclude arguing; it excludes name calling and bad words as substitutes for critical thinking. It excludes hatred.

For those that want to argue their way through issues, perhaps learning how to argue would be a first step. Put a conclusion on a piece of paper. List three reasons why you believe that to be true. Then find two or three pieces of support for those reasons.

I have no idea how to get it right these days. I just want to stop caring about being right. It’s time we examine our motives and decide where we stand on this. Do we care more about being right or getting it right? That question should make us all think.

Who Moved My Boundaries?

iron fence 1If we want to know if fear is operating in our lives, we can ask this question: Has any person caused me to adjust my boundary lines without my agreement?

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown talks about the importance of setting boundaries.

“The most compassionate people that I’ve ever interviewed… happened to be the most boundaried. They had very, very clear boundaries about what they were willing to do, what they were not willing to do, what they were willing to take on, and what they were not willing to take on.”

Years ago, I was struggling with someone I had been very close to. Originally, it was based on mutuality and friendship. But over the years, I slowly lost control of how that relationship operated. By default, my boundary lines kept being moved until I had none. I was afraid to say no to anything. Disapproval was always the result of a “no,” and disapproval came with consequences.

The problem with these types of relationships is that they begin just like any other relationship, but over the course of time, one gradually gains power over the other. One degree at a time, so we really don’t notice what’s happening.

I wish I had known about boundaries back then. Maybe this next line would have grabbed me by the throat and made me come face to face with my role in that relationship:

“I need to have really clear boundaries.  I need to set my boundaries, and not get involved to the degree where I lose control over how I feel about myself and what’s going on in that relationship. I think it is… much easier to be compassionate when we feel respected, and almost impossible to feel compassionate, and feel empathic for people when we feel like we’re being taken advantage of.”

A lot happened which caused this relationship to eventually end. I have done a lot of soul searching to understand the role of boundaries in my life, and the part I played in allowing the boundaries to be continually shifted. And fear was at the root of most of it. Fear of disapproval, fear of rejection, fear of change. When it all ended, and I had a chance to step back as observer, I was shocked at how easily I gave my boundaries away.

If someone had asked me if this person ever caused me to move a boundary, maybe I would have said, “Oh hell yes. What have I been thinking?” But I don’t know. Maybe fear was still too prominent. There would have been significant consequences for bringing boundaries to the table.

But even in the face of big consequences, fear is never the answer. If our boundaries are being moved, we are the only ones who can stop the pushback.  If we want to live with compassion toward others, we have to have compassion with ourselves. If we feel taken advantage of, if we feel we are having the life sucked out of us…we have nothing left to give.

Sometimes all we need is one life lesson to teach us about our never-agains. Our boundaries are about making sure we have life to give to those who need it. If we want compassion, love and kindness to be our life message, we must begin with ourselves. Boundaries are mandatory.