People who are always right are usually wrong
As Executive Director of The Justice Project, I find myself sensitized to what those in the world around me think is just. Sadly, I have witnessed too many of us can’t discern what is just and what is just our opinion. The consequence of this is living in a contentious world of polarized “I am right” opinion and argument passing for conversation. And it got me thinking about the injustice served amidst all the shouting. – Noah benShea
There’s an old joke about a guy who walks into a bookstore and asks the clerk where the “Self-Help” section is located. The clerk replies, “I could tell you but wouldn’t that defeat your purpose?”
We all think we know what we want to know, and we all decide the lies we decide to believe.
“Convictions,” wrote the philosopher Nietzsche, “are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.”
The sad truth of this is played out more and more often these days. Indeed, it is almost impossible not to witness how many of us are huddled with hubris in the vise of self-conviction.
For example, people who have made a lot of money and are challenged by the dis-equity of wealth distribution will respond with palm-pounding righteous self-conviction, “Listen, I worked hard and deserve this.”
To which, many who are constantly struggling to get by will – with no less conviction – shout back, “You listen, I worked hard – often harder – and don’t deserve to have so little.”
For example, seemingly mild mannered people on bicycles heading to work, or roving packs of hard core of Sunday bicyclists, will give one digit salutes and scream at drivers, “Hey idiot, you don’t own the road!”
To which, more than a few drivers have gone ballistic to anyone in ear range, “Hey, what makes those f-ing jerks on bikes sanctify themselves and act like holier than thou heroes because they’re peddling?”
For example, people who are pleading for stricter gun laws will desperately say, “I can’t feel safe, my family can’t feel safe, our streets and schools aren’t safe with all of those nuts out there carrying guns.”
To which, 25% of the population who have guns will say – with simple reason in their voice – “I’m not a loony. I’m the sane one. Insanity is feeling safe without a gun knowing how many nut cases are out there carrying guns.”
Which brings us back to Nietzsche, and our convictions, and this more important truth. My friends, life is too short to waste our time being right.
Convictions of any color by their nature bias us into making enemies of those who do not share our conviction – if only to prove to our doubts that we are right.
Convictions we bond with to serve us can also enslave us. Convictions by nature are self-convicting.
And, the consequence of conviction too often makes an attitudinal enemy of the person – or social group – with a differing conviction. These “others,” in turn, are locked in the next cell over, screaming through the bars, serving time in their conviction.
If this isn’t a place, to borrow from the poet, “where ignorant armies clash by night upon a darkling plain,” I don’t know what is.
Understanding is living in a house where every room has a point of view.
Let’s stop being right or self-righteous.
Let’s stop wasting our time making others wrong or feeling wronged.
Let’s cross the street to see what life looks like from the other side of our conviction.
Let’s all be better Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and help someone else or ourselves to cross the street of our convictions.
Let us be convinced of the healing grace born from kindness and caring for each other.
This is not about abandoning values. It is about abandoning the enslaving hubris of opinion that corrupts our values.
“All of our final opinions,” wrote Marcel Proust, “are made in states of mind that do not last.”
People who are always right are usually wrong. And, justice is more than the just us wrapped in our same opinion.
Executive Director, Justice Project