The Gift of Being Wrong

Posted on March 23, 2012

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Every since I watched Kathryn Schulz’s brilliant TED talk on being wrong, I’ve wanted to post something here about the incredible pleasure that can arise from being wrong.

Here’s my opinion in a nutshell:

Being wrong is one of the most liberating experiences.

I actually adapted a lesson from A Course in Miracles about being wrong in a module about anger management for a soft skills manual about Dealing with Difficult People (now part of the offerings of Ottawa’s CBIT Training. The original lesson (see the end of Chapter 5 if you have a copy of ACIM) goes like this (excerpt): “I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise. I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace.

The training module focused on trigger thoughts, like the ones below:

This was what I wrote in the training manual about how to deal with trigger thoughts:

You will surely catch on that ALL trigger thoughts boil down to one basic idea:

Things are not the way they should be,

and you have a right to be angry about it.

But what if that weren’t true?

What if people are only doing the best they can, given their own needs, fears, pain and personal history? What if people are behaving based on what they know and don’t know, their skills, and their physical and emotional limitations? What if they are only doing the best they can with the resources they have available?

The most important step in preventing anger is to be willing to consider that you might be wrong. This little window of humble open-mindedness may be enough to let the sunshine back in.

To use another metaphor, if anger was a balloon, humility would be the little needle that can pop it. Therefore the best thoughts to deal with anger are:

1.     I could be wrong about this.

2.     What other way could I perceive this situation?

3.     I would like to change my mind.

Perhaps you can imagine how thinking those three simple thoughts could make you impervious to the triggers we discussed in the previous sections. However, it isn’t easy to let go of the sense of righteousness that we cling to in our angry states – especially on the spot. Fortunately there are a plethora of coping strategies when you can’t undermine your own angry feelings but want to keep from boiling over. (For more about these alternative anger management techniques, get your butt to Ottawa and take the course!)

Being Wrong and Being the Fool

Being willing to see that you are wrong can bring about a beautiful new beginning.

The experience of openness that comes with being wrong reminds me of the Fool in Tarot. My friend and fellow ACIM student Tina Louise Spalding, a talented artist who is developing her own tarot deck, wrote this about the archetypal fool:

The Fool (I say: a.k.a. being wrong!) is the spark that sets everything else into motion, inspiring the first step towards fulfillment and completion. The first step is the most important step on any journey, but a lot of people are too scared to start.

If the Fool card comes your way, this is the message.

The Fool is pure potential, clear and innocent, neither positive nor negative, but containing the potential for both. The Fool’s approach to life is a strange and unconventional one, he does what is right for him. The Fool will live his way despite what others may think. He is fearless and true to his own path.
In this card the images represent risk and fearlessness, the tight rope walker and cliff hanger. An upside down perspective, the hand stand. Joyful innocence at play, the child blowing bubbles, and lurking in the corner the social mask that disconnects from the Fool’s message.
A Course In Miracles Perspective.
Comparing oneself to others and coming up short is a classic characteristic of the ego. A nagging sense of failure at not achieving the goals of the world and a fear that there’s something inherently wrong with you is a classic sign of separation. We are each unique yet equal and our true desires lead us along our path home.

“How instantly the memory of God arises in the mind that has no fear to keep the memory away.” CH 28,13. ACIM

Thank you Tina, Kathryn, Jesus, and Truth! I am SO glad I’ve been wrong, and continue to be wrong!
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