Around the age of 9, I had an epiphany. I was feeling frustrated, reflecting on a debate with a friend (I felt certain I was right, but she wouldn’t give in), when a wonderful solution occurred to me: I just needed to believe I was right so deeply that there would be no need to argue about it with anyone. I remember thinking that yes, this was arrogance – but perhaps arrogance wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Though I didn’t apply it 100% of the time, as a strategy, it worked pretty well for me. I realised that it was far nicer not to engage and get myself het up. It was also interesting to observe other people and better understand their motivations and the way they saw the world. I learnt the benefits of holding my tongue.
Of course, now as an adult, I see some major flaws in the approach! To always think that I know best is a strain; it is some hefty ego maintenance. It is also an isolated position and stopped me seeing the true value of the people around me. And it stopped me from expanding my knowledge, and perhaps even from experiencing new joys.
I now see that:
- We should be detached from our own opinions. They do not define us. This way we can explore alternatives without the weight of personal responsibility.
- When we find ourselves in disagreement with others, we can take a moment to stop and choose to be calm. If we put others at ease and allow them to feel understood and respected, they might share their worldview with us, which is a precious thing. Through this worldview, we might learn new truths. We will see that everyone has wisdom.
- We should look out for signs of suffering in others. If someone’s opinion represents a mindset of greed, hedonism or narcissism (etc.), their experience of life is fundamentally limited. They do not know how it feels to pursue wholesome endeavours, and to be kind and peaceful. Once we recognise that suffering, we can have empathy, patience and kindness towards them.
We only have one life. Our energies should not be spent trying to be right; they should be spent making the experience of being (conscious) as rewarding, interesting and fulfilling as possible.