Kathryn Schulz said it best in her TED Talk, we usually go out of our way to avoid being wrong.
It’s the discomfort and embarrassment of REALIZING we’re mistaken that we’re trying to dodge. Being wrong, in and of itself, feels like nothing different. It feels like being right. It’s only when we discover our wrongness that we suffer to pain and shame of our embarrassment.
We’re taught in our early days of childhood that the key to success is to never make any mistakes. At least not big ones. Get the A+ on the math test, write the killer essay on what happened during the summer vacation, and always strive to be the best.
To feel right means we think our beliefs and perceptions reflect reality.
When people disagree with us, we think they don’t have all the facts. We do our best to present all of the data. When they continue to disagree with us after having the whole story, we move them into the Idiot Camp. They know the truth but just can’t put it together. They are not as smart as we are. When we present our convincing argument and show them enlightenment, and they still disagree with us, well… that’s just the evil side of their nature. They now know the truth and are deliberately distorting it.
Never in our process do we step back to consider that we ourselves are possibly mistaken in our interpretation of the world.
In the words of St. Augustine, “I err therefore I am.”
Seeing the world as it “really is” isn’t a great thing. We love surprise endings, reversals, plot twists, and red herrings. It’s the unexpected that keeps us from falling into a boring, predictable life. It’s the unexpected that keeps us alive and drives our innovation and productivity. It’s our mistaken perceptions that make the sky bluer, the grass greener, and our lives richer.
We can delude ourselves into thinking (however erroneously) that our jobs are great, our homes are beautiful, our spouses are loving, and our kids are super geniuses. Are those bad mistakes to make? Or are they the rose-colored glasses we need to wear in order to keep from blowing off our own heads as we contemplate our own mediocrity.
We need mistakes to survive our own existence. We know in our hearts that not everyone can be a world class singer, but that doesn’t stop us from belting out the tunes during a road trip. In the confines of our car interior, we transform into someone worthy of an opera aria.
Conversely, our belief that something is worse than it really is provides us with the motivation to move forward, to expend the energy in an attempt to make our world a better place. Our career path may not be all that we envisioned, so rather than be happy with our gainful employment, we mistakenly think we need to do more, say more, be more to move ahead faster, further, higher. Our mistaken view of how long it takes to reach our goal propels us to work hard to reach it in the erroneous time frame we’ve allowed ourselves.
But there are times I prefer to be wrong.
I want to be wrong when it comes to my home and my personal belief that it’s the cutest place on the street (it keeps me motivated to work on the landscaping). I want to be wrong in my belief that Husband #2 is permanently gone and keeps me in his life as a dalliance. I want to be wrong in my belief that I will be the only one who contributes to our relationship. I want to be wrong about a lot of things.
Fallor ergo sum.