What is it about so many of us that promotes within us an insatiable need to be right?
In some of us this need is so strong, so pervasive that we will convince ourselves that we are the victim of some others behaviour and find fault with everything that person does as a means of validating to ourselves the justification for not getting along with that person.
Interestingly, it seems that whenever we find ourselves in this situation it is invariably because he or she “did this or that” and until they apologize, peace on earth will remain an out of reach elusive dream.
I recently had an opportunity to meet with a person who had contacted me through a mutual friend and who wished to meet and discuss a workplace situation that had been brewing for quite some time.
When she arrived for the meeting I noticed she was carrying two 3 inch three ring binders both of which were filled to capacity.
I had thought she wanted to meet and explore her options; different ways of resolving the numerous conflicts in her life.
Boy, was I wrong.
She related story after story of incident after incident to illustrate the unfair, unjust, unethical, unwarranted, unappreciated, unprovoked and unprofessional conduct to which she was exposed daily.
I began to feel unusually uncomfortable.
And those 3 inch, three ring binders?
Well, they were bursting with incontrovertible evidence in support of her claims of systematic and systemic ill treatment.
She pulled out letters, emails, faxes, copies of documents and forcefully shoved them across the table for me to review. Some of these related to events that had taken place so long ago I swear her notes were actually drawings of figurines carved into small pieces of rock.
I think I was supposed to read each page and acknowledge my support for her cause.
Perhaps she thought I was a judge who would render a verdict in her favour and force those who had so maliciously wronged her to suffer mightily as they repented the error of their ways.
I wanted to interrupt her but was afraid lest my very words and actions be recorded and placed in one of those files for use at a later hearing.
Spinoza said that “no matter how thin you slice it, there will always be two sides” and after considerable time had passed I realized she probably was not going to share with me the “other” side and so I finally did pluck up enough courage to point out that I was getting the point she was making. I told her that I understood that she believed that she was continually on the receiving end of poor and unprofessional treatment at the hands of her supervisors, managers and co-workers and asked her what outcome she hoped to achieve in her future interactions with the above mentioned misfits.
She paused, gazed blankly straight ahead after, after much internal deliberation declared that what she wanted was for all these folks to stop finding fault with everything she does, stop criticising her every breath and to provide her with the same workplace environment and opportunities afforded to every other employee.
I asked what she thought needed to happen to achieve this end result and what role she needed to play in resolving these matters.
She told me that in order for a lasting peace treaty to be declared each of the offenders would need to sincerely apologize to her for their behaviour and without said apology, sustainable peace was not an option.
When I asked her what her response would be if each of “them” felt that she was the cause of all conflict and should therefore be the one offering apologies she glanced at me with the look one reserves for the arrival of the village idiot, asked whether I had heard a single word she had been saying to me and, if I had been listening, how I could possibly even consider that she may not be right on all counts.
It seemed to me that to her, it was more important to be right than to create an environment that could be embraced by all.
The problem with being right is that for that to happen it is necessary for one or others to be wrong and when we all hold firm to the belief that we are right and therefore, cannot possibly be wrong, then the only possible result is the continuation of an untenable situation made bearable only by the feelings of superiority that come with being right.
All those things “they” did to us have already happened. They happened in the past.
We even have a name for that.
History. Or in this case Herstory (sorry).
It is what it is. We can never change it.
What we can do, which we do anyway, is choose the affect it has on us.
And not convince ourselves that the past is always a predictor of the future.
Perhaps if we can reach a place within ourselves where it doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong, and instead focus on behaviours that unite rather than divide, then our lives would be less stressful and more joyful.
And we wouldn’t have to spend our days collecting evidence in 3 inch three ring binders.
Some of you may disagree with me.
You are wrong.
Till we read again
P.S. My book, Life Sinks or Soars – the choice is yours is still available at Self Connection. Click here to order