Do We Always Have to be Right?

We, humans, have this insatiable desire, if not addiction, to be RIGHT.

No matter what.

And because we fear, we hate being wrong.

If you are wrong about the right path as you run away from the tiger chasing you, well…it doesn’t turn out so good.

It gets messy.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the middle of the intersection of my life and was totally paralyzed to make a decision for fear of being wrong.

What the hell!?

I mean seriously, I remained stuck, miserable with certain situations all because I didn’t want to be wrong.

And when you need to be right and believe that the path you walk is what EVERYONE else should walk, then you become another gatekeeper in the system of shoving others into the same corral you’re stuck in.

I’m not sure what’s worse, being the one stuck, or the cattle prod in which I entrench others into a life that does not resonate with them.

Reminds me of a story I heard many moons ago when a speaker made a point about being right.

I did a quick search, using google of course—which is always right, right?—about the veracity of this urban legend of a large naval ship at sea and the infamous lighthouse.

This is one version…

***

ACTUAL transcript of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10-10-95.

Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”

Canadians: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”

Americans: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.”

Canadians: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”

Americans: “THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT’S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.”

Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

***

This story is an old one and the roots traced back to the early 1930’s.

I’ve heard similar stories of this account with different named ships and locales over the years.

Seems as though everyone has the “right” version of this story.

Rumor is that there’s a Spanish version of this tale that the reply of the operator of the Lighthouse states he’s accompanied by his dog, food, beer, and a canary that is asleep.

I think the Spanish version sounds better…um, right version that is…but hey, that’s me.

Am I wrong for thinking that?

Much has been preached about this story in the context of being right to the point of being inflexible, being arrogant, and being demeaning toward others, in the fact that we, of course, are right.

***

Yes, there are certain rules and laws to uphold, but even some laws are flat out bad and wrong to which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter to fellow Clergymen eloquently addressed in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Unfortunately, the craving and addiction and habit of thinking and feeling that we ARE right is usually at the expense of putting others down, demeaning co-workers, and condemning family members.

Perfectionism is the curse of progress.

And when you set out to make certain changes in your life, progress is what you should strive for and not perfection.

And! what is right today, may prove wrong tomorrow….

Earth was flat, now it’s round.

The Sun revolved around the earth, now it’s the other way around.

Coconut oil was supposed to be good for you, now it’s not.

Chocolate was bad, now it’s good for the heart—interesting fact, my dentist loves me!

Society, family, co-workers, all scream at us what is right…yet, none dare to walk the path you will walk when you decide that the reinvention you need to accomplish in your life, MUST happen…

Because if it doesn’t, you know that you will be the lion’s next victim as you sit confused in the middle of the intersecting pathways.

***

With all this talk of being right and the uneasiness that comes with the fact that I myself might admit that I need to adjust a few things along life’s journey, I have to ask myself a few questions along the way…

  • – What would our relationships look like if we could sprinkle kindness and humility with our answers when delivering what we think is right?
  • – How much stronger would our families ties be if we shouted praise for the one who is attempting to make positive changes instead of scraping at every little negative thing about their life?
  • – Would work be more pleasant of an experience if we stopped putting other co-workers down because of our unconscious competence and we ourselves have forgotten the learning curve we went through to become the experts (being right all the time!) in our field?

***

Then…

Sometimes…most times, really…I fear being made fun of, I fear shame, I fear ridicule, I fear what society thinks of me, I fear what you think about this blog, I fear being wrong…

I fear, fear, fear!

Thus, I must be right, at least appear to be right—no matter what—which is dangerous turf.

It takes me to a place of evasion and deflecting that usually means I wind up crossing the lines of my own integrity. I will lie and say, “Yep, I agree” or “I know” when I don’t or didn’t and I violate my own values.

Ugh…

***

How many positive changes could we make if we acknowledged that we might not be right all the time and say…

“It’s okay, let’s go this way for a while and see what happens?”


Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash

Posted by Christian Martin Jr.