Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What's So Wrong With Being Wrong?

There on fourth street in Keene, Texas lived my Aunt Lila Beth Creel. If you lived for anytime in Keene and went to public school you knew her. On Sabbath afternoons, after potluck at her old, old house (now torn down for the Hopps development) the Hopps men--Herbert, Cecil, Jim, John, Frankie and the cousin Frys--David, Ed and Kenneth would congregate in her living room and discuss politics and religion. When all the kids my age and younger were out playing, I would be sitting on Lila Beth's swiveling dark stained piano stool--listening. I loved, couldn't wait for, family gatherings because I would sit there like Sponge Bob absorbing all the different perspectives and arguments.

Occasionally the little skinny and only girl in the corner (me) would pipe up and say something--usually to the great irritation of the men--and I would immediately be shut down, exposing my youth and ignorance. I was wrong and needed to shut up and listen to wisdom and knowledge.

Through the years, if they would have ever noticed and I doubt they did, I grew up listening, listening and calculating and examining their arguments, learning how to check for possible weaknesses in their points. And more I would venture to add my own comments--the older teenager in the corner (now my feet could touch the floor sitting on the old swivel chair). My siblings and cousins long ago giving up on getting me to come play with them outdoors, now it was the women who wanted me to come help clean up potluck. I helped, but hurried back into the discussion room (usually men-only) as fast as I could in case I missed some brilliant point.

What I learned is that ideas thrown out for public exposure get shot down--even if they are right. But the greatest thing is that they are easily shot down when they are WRONG! As embarrassing as it is to have your ideas and thoughts ridiculed, it still helps you to see the errors of your thinking. It is never fun to be wrong, but what a thrill to be set on the right track!

For a time I was sent off to an SDA boarding school-- Valley Grande Academy near the Mexico border. There were some girls there who were very vocal about their dislike of me. They called me stuck up. I became incredibly defensive and then I thought about Aunt Lila Beth's house. Whether or not the idea was hurtful, the more important point for me to focus on was whether the criticism was right! If I examined it objectively and change where I needed to change, I had turned what the girl meant for harm and insult into a great advantage and positive effect in my life.

Being wrong isn't the worst thing in the world--embarrassing, humiliating, maybe even heartbreaking and horrifying at times, but the worst thing would be to continue to be wrong when you could have been right.

On my blogs and facebook, we get into a lot of discussions about politics and religion. There are some people out there who are mortified by disagreement, by exposing someone's faulty thinking or hurting their feelings. To me it is enlightening, I feel I am back, sitting on my corner piano stool listening in and learning--but this time to a whole new set of thinkers. I throw out my opinions like skeet and watch how people try to shoot them down. Some hit the target and I have learned from the experience. I am wrong--so what? Now I can walk away from my "wrongness" and figure out what is right. The person has HELPED me!!

I naively assume others are like myself--my husband constantly telling me I am wrong again! Very few people, he assures me, actually want to know if they are wrong. Most people only want to snuggle up to those who agree with them and live peacefully in error-land, never looking under rocks or past the foggy illusions of their beliefs. They live in a type of smothered fear, learning precisely which stones to step on in their way, for to try any new stone, to look up in any new direction would mean having to admit they were wrong.

I say bahumbug! Be wrong! It only hurts for a minute. So what? Who are we to protect our little precious opinions and guard the gates of our prejudices! Open wide the windows of your mind and let in a little sunlight and salty sea air. You may cough a few times, but its okay! We all survive wrongness and the embarrassment that accompanies it. It just proves to ourselves that we are not God.