I grew up needing, with all my heart, to be right.
Arguments among us children were limited to verbal form — no punching, kicking, etc., etc. Perhaps because of this, I became very good at verbal gymnastics. Or so I see it, anyway. At the base of that strategy was this tremendous need to win, to be right, to prove the other wrong — in other words, to be a success in the one way we were allowed to express disagreement.
Calling myself a success in this situation is rather an odd approach, now that I am older and know better. Winning in this kind of contest usually lacked the victorious aura I would have liked. At first at home, then later, when I tried to apply this strategy in other situations, I ignored the majority of people’s reactions — disdain, maybe a sarcastic smile — I simply assumed they didn’t know how right I was. Never, during most of my adult life, did I even consider that perhaps I was on the wrong track, that people’s negative reactions to my parade of being right-ness were warranted.
I don’t really remember when my feelings about being wrong or right changed. I spent a lot of time, learning to believe that I could love myself. Only then could I think about not being right. I resisted this at first; how could anyone be happy, not being right? How could I be happy, without being right — that is, not being the winner? Why in the world would I ever not want to come out on top of any disagreement? The answers to these questions eluded me, and I struggled mightily, until my precious sister, S., told me that “I can be right, or I can be love.”
Be right or be love. In other words, the rules of argument had changed. I could see, right in front of me, that I no longer needed to make that choice. I was invited to learn that being love made right or wrong trivial. Being love offered me a way out of my desperate need to win every disagreement. Surprisingly, I found that being love was easy, once I released my need to win. Even when I considered my own skewed understanding of being lovable and being loved, the act of being love set me free. Thank everything that is holy.
Do I never worry about being right anymore? Of course I do — one does not unlearn that kind of programming in favor of a single idea that made more sense. But when I find myself slipping into my old need to win, I do my best to remember the truth and the profundity of one simple rule: Be right, or be love.