A question I often hear is, “Would you rather be right or be happy?” I love this question. In our world, all too often people choose being rightover being happy. “He said this, and he shouldn’t have!” “They shouldn’t have done that. Don’t they know better?” I’ve done it countless times myself. Normal conversations the world over are filled with a righteousness, as people take turns sharing the ways in which they are right and other people are wrong.
There’s nothing inherently bad or wrong about this. People will be people. However, is being right ever really satisfying? Does it bring real happiness? It may give people a hallow sense of power. Being right is sort of a verbal oneupmanship as people privately think of others as being less than because of how wrong they are.
Back to the question. “Would you rather be right or be happy?” Notice that it is an either/or proposition. You don’t get to choose both. The two are mutually exclusive. Think about it. Can you be standing in judgment of others, or of anything for that matter, while truly being happy? I don’t believe the pleasure of feeling better than others is real joy. It might be anger, it might be a form of verbal revenge. It might even be an acceptable way to cope with feelings of disempowerment. But is it real happiness?
If you want to be happy, then you need to give up being right. Or at least, you need to give up caring so much if you are right, and especially caring if others know you are right. If you want to be happy, try to give up:
- judging others, or at least taking your judgments seriously
- expressing to others why you are right and others are wrong
For a lot of people, this is is enough to send them to exit doors! “You mean I don’t get to tell people why they are wrong?”
Yeah. If want to be happy, you gotta knock that shit off!
Believe me, I’m learning this the hard way: in my own life! As it happens, when I’m happy, I don’t care about being right! I’m open and generous and easy-going. I laugh at myself and I am quick to clear up misunderstandings. I am happy to take responsibility for how things turn out, especially if they didn’t turn out well! When I’m happy, I am not arguing or pushing against others, I am not trying to defend myself, I am not upset or tense.
On the other hand, if I’m being right, things don’t go well. Communication suffers, misunderstandings ensue. I feel resentful, annoyed, frustrated, upset, stressed. I’m all balled up in all sorts of yuckiness.
I learn again and again that the cost of being right is happiness.
And that’s not a price I’m willing to pay.