On Being Always Right

It can be comforting to realise one shares this affliction with almost everyone else on the planet. Being always right is such a burden. It leaves little room for manoeuvre or re-negotiation. One is right, and that is that. If others are too blind or stupid to acknowledge the fact, tant pis. There is, of course, just one small problem, which St Benedict skirts round in today’s chapter of the Rule, RB 44 How the Excommunicated Are to Make Satisfaction: we fail to see that we might possibly be wrong and so persist in our own stubbornness. The pub argument, the family squabble, the ‘heated’ monastic chapter, they all tend to have this in common: we continue to urge our view of things long after a wiser person would have decided enough was enough and the time had come to quieten down a little. Many an argument is lost because it is taken too far or degenerates into name-calling and insults. We need to remember that peace and unity do not just happen. They have to be worked for, and sometimes fought for; and I’d say the best tool or weapon we can use is restraint, especially self-restraint.


6 thoughts on “On Being Always Right”

  1. What I find fascinating is that one person can propose an idea and have it summarily rejected, and yet someone else can promote the same idea, and have it overwhelmingly accepted, by the same group of people.
    Often, it seems to me. the veracity of a proposal has little to do with its acceptance. Hence, the proliferation of con men, snake-oil salesmen, and spin doctors today, as in the time of Socrates?
    As Christians, might the problem be related more in how we fail to know ourselves and understand others by objectifying them, where our idea, right or wrong, is rejected on the basis of who we are – our way of being towards – rather than what we say, or what St John Paul II called, ‘meeting people wisely’?
    Are our ideas often rejected more on how we behave and communicate them and the presuppositions and judgements of our interlocutors about our character, than their content?
    Once we have alienated someone, it’s hard to get a hearing about anything in the future, without suspicion, isn’t it?

    • Definitely. At the moment I find myself being driven crazy by a group of people with whose ideas I am broadly in sympathy but whose manner of proposing them makes me curl up. The old art of rhetoric, of learning how to propose an argument or win a case, is worth thinking about.

  2. This post is so very relevant to the post-presidential election atmosphere in the U. S. The election is over. I understand that many people are profoundly unhappy at the result; however, once you’ve expressed your feelings of disappointment, then MOVE ON. The thing is done. Endless griping does not help; it only exacerbates the bad feeling. Put it in God’s hands.

  3. How topical for me. Yesterday and today in our Pilgrim Course we discussed two of the Beatitudes, one of which was being a peace maker and the other about being persecuted.

    We were challenged by the questions on both, but one about a peacemaker had the person reflecting with us on the passage saying that “Jesus seems to be saying ‘Blessed are those who seek peace, peacefully”.

    The implication being that the action of seeking peace (or reconciliation) the point being that seeking such a Christian response might be known by the risk taking of seeking peace against all the odds.

    It brought home to some of us, that when we either argue until we’re blue in the face over something, or alternatively, walk away because the argument is just too difficult to cope with, that we are in a literal fashion denying God, through Jesus Christ, the opportunity to enable peace in the situation through his grace.

    More seriously,through such inaction or inaction, we risk escalating such conflict to unimaginable lengths or worse.

    So, how to cope with those who ‘know it all’ and can’t be moved by debate is something of an essential skill it seems to me. I don’t claim to have that gift, but perhaps the key is recognising that within ourselves before we enter the fray to put in our penny’s worth?

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