You do need to be right — all the time
There’s often a sense of arrogance associated with people who insist on being right all the time.
We hate people who refuse to accept the possibility that they could be wrong. We deplore those who stubbornly cling to their beliefs, almost as a matter of pride.
I know this because I’m just as guilty as anyone else for needing to be right.
And yet… is that not central to human behaviour? Maybe even our survival as individuals?
Because even as you accuse someone else of being stubborn and set in their ways, it’s under the assumption that you yourself are right. It’s with the conviction that you couldn’t possibly be wrong about someone else being wrong.
And that in itself is the very predicament.
As much as everyone you ask will tell you that there is plenty of room for grey areas in this world, that’s certainly not how we operate.
Imagine yourself as the captain of a ship. Or the pilot of some sort of vehicle; a car maybe.
How can you possibly manage to make any headway if you cannot muster the courage to believe that you are correct in setting your course? What forward progress is to be made if you are constantly self-doubting your next step, simply for fear of being wrong?
I say this because I have been accused of needing to be right — and I will openly admit that this is a fault of mine.
But it is not a fault absolutely. There is courage, and even necessity in the insistence of being right, even when all signs might be pointing to the fact that you are wrong.
Because ultimately, the world is in fact not black and white. Right and wrong are not fixed spaces or categories of actions. The same action can be right and wrong at the same time, depending on your perspective.
Of course, in certain situations, under certain conditions, one course of action might be “objectively” or consensually more right than it is wrong, and vice versa. The vast majority might agree that Hitler’s attempt to eradicate all Jews was unequivocally wrong.
And yet — could the entire population of a country be wrong? As an individual among many who share in the belief that the Jews are to blame for the downfall of Germany, do you really believe that you would independently take a stance against the opinions of your peers?
In an age where popular opinion can so easily and accessibly sway the beliefs of the individual, how can one be so sure that you are inarguably “right?”
Even when it comes to matters of science and knowledge, “facts” are only as definite and permanent as the latest findings. Knowledge is not certain, but simply what we think we know for sure.
I’m no advocate for complete stubbornness. If anything, I fault myself for sometimes being too receptive to others’ opinions. I am open to hearing others’ perspectives, and perhaps to the point of allowing their perspectives to overtake my own.
But there is honour in being stubbornly “right,” even when the facts and everyone else around you might say otherwise. Look at figures like Newton and Darwin and Galileo. Think of all the spectacular individuals who overcame masses of rolling eyes to give us the technology we so readily take for granted today.
You are right because you insist on being right. That’s all.
You are only wrong when you let others tell convince you that you are wrong. It is not always a matter of what “the facts” tell you — contrary to popular belief, the facts never speak for themselves. They’re just bent into shape by opinionated humans.
As a general rule, I propose this: that being right is simply a matter of having enough conviction and ‘testicular fortitude’ to stand behind what you believe in. No matter what others say.
The ability to be right is really about being able to thoroughly think through your logic. To take it apart and piece it back together, and to keep an eye open for any potential flaws in your thinking. And then to ultimately determine that no — there is nothing wrong with how you’ve arrived at your conclusion.
Even if people call you dense. Even if they call you obstinate and hardheaded and all other sorts of names.
If you see no fault in what you believe. If the only problem you see with your thinking is that others do not like it. Then you must be willing to tell them to fuck off. (And perhaps in such words, if the situation calls for it).
At the end of the day, if everyone is correct, then how can anyone know that they are indeed right?
Have the courage to be wrong. To be embarrassingly wrong.
Consider yourself in the role of the opposition, as a force not only of rivalry but also balance. There is nothing exciting to be had if everyone thinks the same way and looks at things from the same boring-ass perspective.
Even if you are wrong about what you feel so strongly is right, then at least you can say you’ve given purpose to those who seek to admonish you. At least you can say that you stood for something, and that you did not cave in to peer pressure.
At least you can say you were right about being wrong.