I had a conversation recently with a person who made the following statement, “For my own happiness, it’s important that people think I’m right.” The statement made me pause and literally step back. I think the person has his personal happiness tied directly to whether or not he is right. Later, I asked him if he would rather be right or happy? His response to that question was even more revealing. He said, “I am only happy when I think I am right.” Please note that in this discussion, “right” means correct and has nothing to do with politics. :-)
The feeling that I got from this conversation is he would go to almost any extreme to prove somebody wrong in order to make him right. He is willing to sacrifice a lot, such as relationships or respect, just to be right. I’m not sure if he realized that people who make others look bad generally make themselves disliked. I know that while I talked with him, I got an “unlikeable feeling” from just our conversation. It all stemmed from imagining how he was making others feel so he could be “right.”
I think, fundamentally, there is a choice here. Would you rather be right or happy? Now, I know that it is often very complex and not as simple as one or the other. Having stated that, “being right,” where one sees the world as one big competition and winning translates into the end result of right as compared to happy, is not realistic. A person cannot, or at least should not, always expect to be right.
Life should not be a competition of who is right or wrong, but instead, I think it should be viewed as a cooperative endeavor where happiness is the end result. The best approach is for all of us to realize that everyone is on a learning curve. Cooperating instead of competing will help create a world of happiness instead winners and losers. I know that when I was teaching, having my students focus on cooperation instead of competition allowed more and better learning for all.
Each of us must decide what we value. If we value winning above happiness, then how can we be happy when we lose? Oh, I know, we won’t lose. Now, is that realistic? No, but people who value winning instead of general happiness often will not take chances for fear of failure. They will often make “lying” statements of “I don’t know” when they’re sure they do. Of course, no one knows everything, but a fear of failure will cause us to lie about what we know — the “I don’t know” syndrome often seen in children. Wow, that reminds of the classic statement of, “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” I believe that is almost a “Socratic Statement.”
This “right or happy” is just a matter of choice. We need to decide for ourselves what kind of person we want to be. One who chooses freely and is responsible for the choices. One who gives and takes freely and is responsible for the give and take. One who knows that between competing and cooperating, that one is about being right and the other is about being happy! Of course, sometimes we can do both, but when we can’t, which one do you choose?