Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Escaping the Prison of Being Right


"I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be."Albert Einstein
Have you ever stood in the blinding light of self-righteousness?  Perhaps your Republican neighbor is the devil, your boss Hitler, and your cheating spouse the dirt beneath your feet. I certainly have had those feelings. When I marched as a teen to end apartheid in front Shell gas stations, there was no telling me that the Shell  Company's decision not to divest from troubled South Africa at the height of the abolish apartheid movement was nothing more than unadulterated greed. When I found out that an ex-partner had been having affairs, he was lower than low and deserved to be punished. What I failed to see was how my stanch positions caused me to suffer and stifled a beautiful opportunity to grow.
When we fail to see ourselves in the other, we suffer.  If we refuse to see the humanity in another, even our enemy, we fail to have compassion for ourselves. Nelson Mandela said that "Our human compassion binds us the one to the other―not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future." When we insist on being right, there is no space to move forward. If one is cloaking the fullness of another in any way, they are cloaking the fullness in themselves as well.
Yesterday I had the pleasure, while volunteering at a polling station to help a dear friend running for a state office, of seeing two people on opposite sides of the political divide come together and have a colorful, thoughtful, and informative conversation. They listened.  They considered.  They acknowledged fully the humanity of the other and found, on several occasions, not only common ground, but a shift in their position.
What are we denying when we eliminate the possibility of being wrong? The need to be right is like wearing an emotional suit of amour. Strong emotions often awaken old wounds that need healing. When I experienced a partner who had sex outside of our relationship, it brought back the abandoned little girl who missed her father. My failed adult relationship was really a gift that offered awareness and an invitation to heal that long-standing wound. My strong advocacy for others as a teen gave rise to my often ignored need to advocate for myself. We call forth relationships to mirror what requires healing within. Our obdurate positions are often a cry from within to attend to our unfinished emotional business. When we fail to examine our actions, we deny the gifts they bestow.
Responsibility without judging the self is the key. When we insist on being right, we take no responsibility for our personal history and how we may have formed our thought patterns. We turn a deaf ear to the other we hold as "wrong," and cut off and strangle the most fundamental parts of our being―love and compassion. We often do this because we judge our actions. By rendering them "right" or "wrong," we find it too painful to visit the "wrong" parts within us, which are merely our wounded parts. Healing can be as simple as choosing to move, as Nelson Mandela said, toward "hope for the future." By opening our hearts to our wounds, we embrace the opportunity to grow, expand, and recognize our humanity and the humanity of others.