Better To Be Right or Understood?

Better To Be Right or Understood?

Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. – Rumi

This beautiful and wise quote is a powerful reminder that there is so much more to life than simply being right or wrong, this or that, and any other binary thing you want to label. When we pass on from this life, we don’t take anything physical or material with us. It’s far more likely we take our experiences and knowledge beyond this existence. Nobody knows for sure. Although, it’s a good bet love stays with us because it’s such a powerful and central feeling in our lives. The human experience wouldn’t be much of an experience without it. 

Love is essential to our meaningful relationships. It drives them and it’s the glue that holds them together. We know this but we can also become distracted from this fact. We can get caught up in all that life throws at us, causing us to lose touch with this core emotion. We can become more consumed with being validated or right, instead of just trying to understand each other. We can also form inaccurate views and beliefs about the world and each other, based on the circumstances we encounter.

There is a belief out there that a person must think or act a certain way because of how they look, where they were born, who they associate with, or because of how people choose to label them, or how they may even label themselves. We can become so consumed with this belief that we make assumptions or, even worse, dismiss them based off these snap judgements. Assumptions often result in stereotypes and misjudgments of other people. When we combine flawed beliefs with assumptions, it causes us to have a distorted view. This distorted view shifts how we perceive life around us.

A current false belief which is fairly common in society today is that if we don’t agree with someone, we can’t really be friends with them. If we can’t be friends with them, could we even imagine loving them? Is it possible to love those we don’t agree with? Look no further than your own family members.

Think about your own experience. Growing up, did you hold the same ideas as your own family members? Did you think and act the same as the people around you? Did you subscribe to the beliefs of people in your area? Your experience is different and unique, just like you are. Just like we all are. We can’t hold all of the exact same thoughts, ideas, or beliefs as everyone else because we are uniquely our own person. Nobody else in the world is us

Many of us are still learning about who we are and what we want, even as adults. How can anyone assume they know everything about us just because of how we look, where we live, or who we vote for?

Another false belief out there is this: Just because I believe one thing doesn’t mean that I can’t believe in or hold another seemingly opposite idea or view. For example, a person may know smoking is bad for their health. They may even feel nauseous smelling it because of a childhood association with feeling car sick as their parents smoked in the car. However, they overlook all of this because when they smoke marajuana, it helps calm their anxiety and chronic fibromyalgia. The point here is that we will often rationalize what we do based on our circumstances. It’s called cognitive dissonance. 

Look it up and see how it impacts our ability to accept new information. The level of cognitive dissonance we experience is largely determined by how deeply we value a certain belief, along with the degree of inconsistent or clashing beliefs.

As humans, we can hold multiple beliefs and thoughts in our heads. They can also shift over time. We’re complex creatures with emotions and memories. We form ways of thinking throughout our lives based on what we experience. Some of them keep us safe. Others keep us out of trouble or help us form strong relationships. Still, others can hold us back or even hurt us. It works both ways. How we think can help us grow or keep us stuck. From feeling happy to suffering, it’s how we think in any situation that makes it so.

How we think also impacts what we do and who we become, from someone who adds to the world to someone who takes from it. The spectrum of life experiences we can have is impacted by how we contemplate and process them. Our thoughts seem so big and powerful. 

We are so much more than our thoughts and ideas. We are creators and participants in the world around us. 

In order to create something we must be open to gaining new perspectives and knowledge. We also accept the insights that come along with this process. As we age, we can become more open to what life teaches us because we really can’t argue with it. It happens and we eventually learn that we can’t control it.

Like John Lennon said: Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

We understand this about life. Why can’t we understand this about each other too?

Is it because we think we can persuade others to think the way we do? 

Is it because we believe we can argue someone into thinking the same way as us?

Have you ever actually witnessed someone argue with another person, only to have the other person say, “You know what? You’re right. I’m going to think like you now.”

It just doesn’t happen. 

We form our own thoughts and opinions about things. Even if another person tries to force us to think a certain way, we still hold our own internal beliefs and ideas. 

Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still. – Dale Carnegie

How, then, can we ever hope to change what we believe or how we think? 

Why would we ever want to be more objective or put aside our differences?

The quick answer: Life’s too short to waste it trying to judge, criticize, or change someone.

Again, life teaches all of us. It shows us how to learn from our mistakes, the error of our ways, and how to let go of the past, embracing change in order to move forward…That is, if we’re open to these lessons.

One of the most important lessons we can learn is that we must learn to work together, even with those who have contrary or opposing views and beliefs. Societal progress depends on this.

There is so much benefit to putting aside our differences and truly seeing each other as we are, without pretense, assumption, or judgment. The challenge is with letting go of, or changing, the framework around how we view and experience the world. This framework or “mental model”, as author Elizabeth R. Thornton refers to it, is our individual source of reference for life. We spend a lifetime constructing it, based on our past experiences. When explaining our mental model she goes on to say:

One of the most powerful mental model transformation catalysts is knowledge, new information or logic that defies old mental models and ways of thinking. As we have seen, mental models are deep-rooted beliefs, ideas, and notions that we tend to hold onto, no matter what. They define our sense of reality and drive our perception, interpretation, and response to everything we experience. Mental models predispose us to very specific ways of thinking and acting. They’ve usually been with us a while, so we tend to trust them, in some cases justifiably. For most of us, we have never been taught about mental models and how to evaluate them to determine if they are helpful or harmful. 

We must be able to zoom out and objectively look at our beliefs and ideas about life, determining if they still benefit us or hold us back, on a regular basis. Only we can decide if they are and whether or not we will change them. Too many people reach the end of their lives and regret the things they should have said or done. 

People can struggle with those who don’t share their beliefs or views of the world. The word “can” is used here to point to the fact that we have a choice, as in many things in life. We don’t need to struggle with those who don’t agree with us or even when they don’t show up the way we would want them to. We have a choice.

We must learn to accept the fact that people act according to their beliefs, along with the other things that influence them, which are all a result of their experiences. 

Objectivity requires us to step back and release this need for control or compliance with our needs. When we let go and do this, we must also accept another person’s point of view or perspective. Doing this allows us to have better relationships and more of a sense of peace in our lives. 

We must immerse ourselves in other cultures. It’s healthy for our brains and actually creates new neural pathways for us. We experience life on a different level and level up our human experience in the process. We see that other people, although different in their customs, rituals, routines, or appearance, also share many similarities with us. They enjoy food, music, family and friends just like us. They have hopes and dreams, worries and fears, and desires to live a fulfilling life. We begin to see our humanity in them, despite our differences or what we label as right or wrong. We begin to better understand each other.

A great first step towards becoming more objective is to travel. Not just to another part of our country, but to another country all together. Research shows that travel has positive effects on our mental health, creating empathy, and opening us up to new experiences. All while shifting our beliefs about humanity, becoming more open-minded in the process.

Research also shows that creating empathy, in addition to travel, is another part of the process towards shifting beliefs, creating objectivity and more understanding. Empathy is also a behavior that can be learned at any age thanks to human emotion and the neuroplasticity of the brain. 

Changing what we believe involves more than traveling and developing empathy. It also requires us to really stop and listen to each other. To take daily action. Stepping outside our comfort zones and engaging with our environment. We learn infinitely more by doing versus just being. We learn that our way isn’t the only way. Our beliefs aren’t the only beliefs. 

Our world appears to be black and white or right and wrong, based on how we label it. Shifting how we perceive things is essential to looking at the world more objectively. We let go of judgment and begin to open ourselves to new possibilities. Where there was a lack, we begin to see potential. Where there was despair, we now see hope.

The world doesn’t exist in a black and white format. It’s beautiful shades of colors and spectrums. This is true in all that we perceive through our senses. Everyone experiences things differently because they, themselves, are different. Our differences help us appreciate the variety of life and teach us objectivity by learning through various viewpoints. When we embrace this truth, it builds a bridge towards better understanding.

When we release the need to be right or wrong, we begin to embrace a more objective view. By being more objective, we are also more open minded. An open mind allows us to be teachable and have a desire to understand. When we truly understand each other, we can begin to move forward, finding better solutions and strengthening our relationships.

The most important and powerful relationships we experience in our lifetime transcend anything worldly or binary like being right or wrong. They are formed by those who are willing to look beyond their own mental frameworks and beliefs. They understand the power of connection and insight that comes with being open. For many, it takes a lifetime to get there. Those who understand this, and are willing to embrace new perspectives, allow more people into their lives and experience a deeper form of love. This is what makes a life well lived. 

Think of the impact on the world if each of us focused on evolving ourselves, how we relate to each other, and loving more deeply. The choice is always ours!