TED Conversations

Valerie Netto

Horse Trainer Riding Instructor, American Riding Instructors Association

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How would we treat each other if we were not controlled by a need to be right?

We all have areas of life that we are passionate about like religion, politics and horse training. We all think we are right, marriages end, families are torn apart and through history we have died trying to prove it. Why, and if the saying "would you rather be right or would you rather be happy" appeals to so many of us why do we cling so tenaciously to the need to be right? HINT:
E veryone
G oes
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Topics: polotics religion
  • Dec 21 2011: There should not be a need to be right - merely to be happy in oneself, in your own choices and descisions - just to know who you are and what you believe. Thereby acceptance of others and their beliefs comes naturally :)
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      Dec 21 2011: Let me ask you a question, Jean......what do you think is the reason why people feel as though they need to be right?

      RELATED: I remember hearing this quote to remember when you're in a relationship fight: "Would you rather be Right, or would you rather be Happy? lol
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        Dec 22 2011: Acting out "being right" is a waste of my time. I'd rather be on a road to higher consciousness.
      • Dec 23 2011: Hi Richard. An interesting question. Just from previous experience and realationships...and this is just my opinion, I feel that people who have a need to be right have issues with insecurity. This could be due to a wide range of issues, but in having to prove you are right, to push your reasoning across to others above all else shows that the person cannot just accept their own beliefs as being good and right for them, as an individual - there is an overwhelming need to show everyone that they are knowledgeable, intelligent, worldy...... This could include feelings of needing to feel worthy, included and accepted within a circle of friends. What do you think?
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        Dec 23 2011: I think he means happier - not happy.
        in fact - I believe that there`s no right or wrong - there is only enjoy and pain.
        and if it doesn`t seem clearly - It`s just a little psychologically complicated.
        and people`s need to feel which they`re right is just because everyone seek for feeling the social supporting - because everyone seek for safety - because everyone want to gain "power".
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    Dec 31 2011: Valerie, we would probably treat each other with kindness, and we would be tolerant of others opinions. There is a place for being "right", when wrong exists. For example, driving down a one way street and seeing a car come up....you will honk and put on your brights and try to get the person to realize he is endagering his life and others.

    Some of us are aware and know that we don't know everything.. we make an effort to be humble...but, still there are things within us that we know to be right. The trick is to be tactful, discreet, and cognicent of the following:

    "While our thinking colors all our experience, more often than not our thoughts tend to be less than completely accurate. Usually they are merely uninformed private opinions, reactions and prejudices based on limited knowledge and influenced primarily by our past conditioning. All the same, when not recognized as such and named, our thinking can prevent us from seeing clearly in the present moment. We get caught up in thinking we know what we are seeing and feeling. Just being familiar with this deeply entrenched pattern and watching it as it happens can lead to greater nonjudgmental receptivity and acceptance." J. Kabat-Zinn

    Great question. I thought you were right in asking it!!!
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      Dec 30 2011: Dear Ed,
      You have hit another nail on the head! Tolle, along with other sages, gurus, philosophers, psychologists, and teachers of many different practices, have given us this valuable information for centures.

      Your description of the process, which I agree with, reminds me of the cycle of violence and abuse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycle_of_abuse.

      In an attempt to be "right" we often see people demeaning and belittling others to appear to be more "correct", more "evolved", more "insightful", "smarter", "stronger"....and the list goes on and on. Abuse is often a componant in an effort to be "right". Of course, those who want to appear "right" don't see it that way because in their insecurity, thay are too busy trying to convince others of their "rightness". It is exactly as you and Tolle bring to light...thank you for the information:>)
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        Jan 6 2012: Great point. Ones fear of what they don't understand about someone else has led to violence all of humanity. Seeking positions of power thru, violence,segration,political gains, monitary gains, etc. are a result of a lack of knowledge and acceptance of another group. When we can see ourselves in every other person on earth, then there's no need to control or seek a position of power over anyone else. Takes a lot of courage to go against the conventional wisdom of your neighbors, churches, schools and family.
  • Dec 21 2011: I would much rather enter into a conversation with someone who needs to be right than someone who doesn't care. Not caring one way or the other leaves you nothing to debate or learn from.
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      Dec 21 2011: I have to say, I abhor apathy as well. I may get frustrated with people who seem to be closed-minded and stubborn about something, but those debates are the ones I always remember.
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        Dec 22 2011: Lori and Gina....

        Like anything else, I would suggest that it's all about balance. I remember hearing once that there is nothing more dangerous on this planet than the person who's 100%, absolutely sure that they are Right :-)
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      Dec 22 2011: I agree apathy is the most frustrating, but someone who insists on being right also has a flaw- what Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset. I believe there is a third option- someone who engages in passionate dialogue with an open, or growth (Dweck), mindset. I think we would treat each other with much greater respect and empathy if we all worked on having a growth mindset (not saying I'm right- just my opinion).
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      Dec 22 2011: Is it really the case that if you don't wish to engage with a ego strong person that your are then apathetic. The Thai Chi masters teach one to not stand in resistance but to step out of the way of power and guide it away from you. It is easy to perceive an ego strong individual in the act of "being right". Why bother with such a person mirroring back the act of being right in an engagement of a power. There is much to learn from the Universe without engaging in a struggle for rightness.
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    Dec 12 2011: The need to be right is the need for the ego to be separate from others. When we judge something as either right or wrong, we automatically create space between us. The need to "know" is part of this need to judge others. All that is known is in the past. All that is unknown is in the future. Living in the known is living in the past and living in the unknown is living in the now.

    Acceptance of reality is peace. Finding peace in not knowing is the way of the calm, loving person. Judging others is not accepting them the way they are. Judging one's self is not accepting the self the way it is. Practicing unconditional self-acceptance, and then unconditional other-acceptance, brings back reality -- just the way it is.

    Encouraging our friends' inspirations is what I like. I work towards accepting them and loving them and what they do. I acknowledge their efforts with the goal of helping them to blossom into the creative force that is their own genius. My genius is mine and yours is yours. In spite of our perceived differences, we are both right if we're following our own creative impulses.

    Variety is the spice of life. For it is our differences that help us to move beyond ourselves. Our differences spark discussion, cooperation, collaboration, creativity, and challenge our "beliefs." Celebrating our differences is a mark of our humanity. Pluralism is the name given to it.

    Humble ignorance is a greater force than arrogant righteousness. The one who is righteous lives in shame and fear. The righteous perceives self-worth only when they, or others, are "right." Desperately protecting the self's righteousness becomes primary over all other goals.

    Attaching one's identity to their righteousness is a dangerous game. When the self-righteous individual is wrong or wronged, they lash out at others or the self. Violence, self-downing, and dictators are the result.

    Vive la difference.
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      Dec 12 2011: Thank you Scott! My feelings exactly! The whole intention behind my question was to see how many would respond with love or with defense or to miss the message altogether. I really only want to get us thinking of the possibilities we are capable of as the beings we truly are! You fill me with hope!
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    Dec 25 2011: We all have hates and prejudices that are based on lack of knowledge and understanding. Through the invention of cars, planes, and passengerships the world has become smaller. Through travel and personal observation many of the myths have been debunked. We no longer live in the shadow of kings and royal blood, church rulers that demanded total obediance or death, or in fear of witch hunters. Today I acknowledge what works for me and will share that if you ask. I do have opinions, however I will revise them if given sufficient or compelling reason. So in the end I agree that the EGO, fear, and ignorance are the true enemies.

    One last thought .... Sites like TED have allowed us all to grow. I have not seen any conversation where a demand to a personal view has been made. I learn from each of you and thank you.
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      Dec 25 2011: Thank you too Robert, for this illuminating comment, all of which I strongly agree with...except...the idea that we "all have hates and prejudices...". I believe that is a choice that some of us do not make:>)

      AND...I hope this is not really your "one last thought" because I appreciate your insight:>)
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        Dec 25 2011: Some hates and prejudices are certainly not of our choice. If you are the child of a member of the KKK you would most likely be indoctrinated from birth. Some religions believe that if you are not among us you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Some American tribes told their children that the white man would eat them if they were caught. A major religion in the world states that if you are not a believer you must die. Up until the age of accountability many choices are made for us ... or at least are guiding influences. After the age of accountability I agree that we either continue or we accept hates and prejudices. We also have the choice to discard that which we find objectionable. Phrases such as, "Born to it"; "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"; all indicate that influences exist in our (and others) lives. And thanks for your comments.
        • Dec 25 2011: We are as much of a product of our environment as much of what out being defines ourselves. Love, right, hate, and wrong all words that we choose to give meaning towards even though most of us are so blind to the extent of the true meanings. We are simple beings that may accept or discard the world around us , but in both scenarios where the just is met, it will effect us either way. This does not mean it is a direct hit for we always have control on the greatest defense of holy and wicked actions, our minds. No matter what age we are, our mind can use its defenses to block such influences; therefore if one lets the cradle rock, then, even though I am truly blind to such subtle things, I can still know that it is rocking.
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          Dec 25 2011: Robert,
          I can only speak from my own experiences and the experiences of people I know. I was the child of a hateful, prejudice, racist father, and those are the messages I was given by him from birth. However, as a young adult, I made different choices because I understood his fear. I was also brought up in a catholic environment...12 years of catholic school and indoctrination, in which I was taught that we (catholics) would enter the kingdom of heaven, and everyone else was going to hell. I also saw the fear in that belief even as a young child. There is no doubt that there is hate and prejudice abundant in our world. However, I believe that as thinking, feeling adults, we have the ability to make choices, and on that we seem to agree.:>)
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    Dec 22 2011: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
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    Dec 21 2011: Deepak Chopra says: To truly find inner peace we must release the need to defend our opinions.

    I try and practice this, and have to say, I am not a " Ms. Right" person by nature. However I am human and do feel challenged at times by the thoughts and questions of others. So, I do my best to not "react", instead, reflect and consider, then move forward. And, I am also not a Buddhist Monk, and in some cases, after evaluation will conclude to myself alone, that another person may be full of it, and I am " independent of the good or bad opinions of others, and beneath no one." Another quote from Deepak.

    I am, we are human. Forgiveness and Acceptance are practices that are much needed in society today I feel. Releasing the need to defend the opinion of the ego, actually does bring inner peace. Try it.

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    Dec 21 2011: I haven't read everyone's post, but I figured I should respond since I work with horses and you're a trainer and riding instructor. :) I do volunteer work to help end the heinous and illegal practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses, which is the process of causing pain to a horse's front limbs so he will lift his legs higher in the show ring. Unfortunately, in that community, the people have been raised to believe that soring and abusing horses is the right way to train them and that everyone else should just leave them alone. So maybe sometimes we have to know what's right first in order to defend being right. I believe it is right to treat others with respect and fairness, including our animal brethren, for they are living beings just as we are. But many people think that animals are "just animals" and don't deserve good treatment. They should do their jobs and suffer for it if they have to. Which of us is right? I would hope all of us would think that animal abuse is wrong, but that isn't necessarily true.

    As far as clinging to the need to be right, I think some people believe, whether consciously or not, that they are a failure if they're wrong. I have struggled with it myself in my life--I come from a very intelligent family where it was assumed that being wrong is a social faux pas. But my family and I have learned that no, we don't have to be right all the time. Plus I have learned that for many people, it is impossible to show them they're wrong because they refuse to see it--they can't see past the end of their own nose, so to speak. It's a personal issue in my opinion--the need to be right is a personal struggle for various people. They have to choose to understand that even when you know you're right, even though you are saying the sky is blue and the other person is vehemently screaming that the sky is black, it's okay to walk away and accept that the other person is not willing to open their mind to other possibilities.
  • Dec 21 2011: I think at the deep root level it is the age old question : What is real ?. We naively believe that the world ''I'' see is the world that IS.
    But it is not true, we see the world differently. What's the point of arguing then ?
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    Jan 4 2012: Actively listen with non-judgment to provide the space for others to discover and follow their own truth.
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    Dec 26 2011: If you need to be right, you are wasting your time in learning what others can teach you.

    There is no universal right, but logic.
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      Dec 26 2011: I agree Luis Javier López Arredondo,
      If we think we need to be "right" we are wasting our time, because we are all teachers and students in this earth school. The sooner we realize this, the better for all of us:>)
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    Dec 26 2011: Well said Colleen,
    The key in any discussion is the purpose for which is made. If the other end is confrontational and is doing it just for the purpose of proving a point it does not lead to any healthy discussion. Good ideas only generate when there is healthy exchange of ideas.
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    Dec 23 2011: In a nutshel - with respect, honesty and parity!
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    Dec 23 2011: The right way to control each other is by the way of taking a back foot whenevar there is any type of confrontation. Easy said then done coz the biggest barrier which is there in doing so is 'EGO'.

    But leading by example should be the firm belief and one should hold it firm in mind that going in back foot does not mean defeat. A expert in martial arts would run avoid a weak player is not because he/ she is afraid but does not intend to cause harmful injuries.
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      Dec 23 2011: Dear Neel,
      Well said, I like your comparison to Martial arts, and I agree that an expert generally wants to avoid harmful injuries. Another way to look at it, is that one core belief of martial arts, is to yield, and come from the core with strength. When people get confrontational, and seem aggresive in their need to be "right", I simply yield to that behavior, because in my heart and mind, I know what my truth is, and that is my strength. It doesn't matter if someone wants to control a discussion. If s/he is not willing to hear my perspectives, the discussion is all theirs:>)
  • Dec 22 2011: The older I get, the more I can see what I don't know. When I was 18 (1969), my views were right, and clearly defined. If you agreed with me, we were sisters and brothers in arms against the rest of the world that didn't agree with us. Otherwise, you were against us.
    Now, I love not knowing, because the possibility of learning something new is my greatest joy! I mean, seriously, who could have ever imagined, back in the '60's, that Bob Dylan would have become a born-again-christian-jew! Or that Jane Fonda, just home from North Vietnam, would have become a gazillionaire excercise guru. These are just 2 things I would have said, "NEVER". And so many others that I could not have believed with my TINY mind. Some people resent change and realizing that things are rarely as simple as we would like, and just dig-in and hold fast to old ideas, becoming bitter, especially against youth and their ideals.
    It's very freeing to not have to pretend to know everything, and welcome corrections of thought. I now realized that I actually learn something from everyone. It may not seem true, or kind, or happy, but it's my choice what to do with it. At 60, I wake up excited to see what is going on now, saying "C'mon, world, show me something I don't know!" And it does!
    • Dec 22 2011: Absolutely (ironic choice of word)...and that "who" you were and the "who" they were...were and are abstract and fluid self constructed concepts...the entire framework of "I" seems solid and constant...but actually is very nebulous. Just ask someone that has had a brain tumor (me) or someone that has rehabilitated after a stroke. The very brains that we "reason" with are subject to change without notice...and thus "I" am and so is what "I" believe to be "right"! Curiouser and curiouser.....go as Alice...hmmmm
  • Dec 22 2011: There is immense power in coming out of yourself (own ego) and saying: "YOU'RE RIGHT.", without any 'buts'/'howevers' added. It's one of the hardest things for the ego to articulate, but leaves the other person feeling happy, good, less defensive/offensive, and probably more willing to listen and connect with you.
  • Dec 21 2011: Being one of Landmark Education graduates, I had the opportunity to experience one of the main distinctions presented during the event; being right and being wrong. I learned that these two forces are actually what drive human actions and interactions in general. There is nothing wrong with being right or wrong, that's just called being human. Now, that's not to say that it's ok to be wrong about something and not actually correct it. Being one way or the other allows us as human beings to create possibilites for living that wouldn't have existed before. For example, the most common word used in most of the comments posted here is "acceptance". Acceptance is one way of being that can make a difference in how we treat each other. This way of being wouldn't have existed if the need for being right wasn't there.

    Good and bad, sad and happy, right and wrong are ways that people choose to live by everyday that we really can't change. However, human beings always have the powerful ability to choose. We can choose being understanding, we can choose to listen for the gold in what people say, we can choose to forgive, we can choose to forget and we can choose to accept people for the way they are and the way they're not.

    Don't reply because I know I'm right! Are you willing to listen? :)
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    Dec 21 2011: If we are able to listen to our EGO, and accept our shadows.. then we ´d live in a state of compassion towards us, others, everything on the planet and beyond. There would be no "right or wrong", "good or bad".. it would be the end of "dualism". We would accept, protect, understand and love one another.. after accepting, protecting, working understanding and loving our own selves.
  • Dec 21 2011: I think that generally we aren't taught how to be wrong. By this I mean the following, usually discovering or being told that you are wrong results in embarrassment and a triggers a base need to protect yourself. That does truly fire up the ego and make you more determined to defend your position and closing down the ability to explore another's views. It would serve us to know what the OTHER way to behave is.

    My personal approach to this has been to adopt one of the seven habits popularized by Steven Covey and that is, first seek to understand then to be understood. (It took me heaps of practice to put my ego one side to do this and still don't always get it right :)

    My other observation is that people (myself included) often link disagreement to disapproval. In other word if someone doesn't hold my view they don't like me. This is inevitably not the case once the issues are explored.

    Now to the question, How would we treat each other. I would imagine that we would be far more gentle with each other, considerate and compassionate. I found that once I got out of the judging game and took more of an observer role I came to understand behavior better. To be clear this doesn't mean that I accept or approve of all behavior after all I still have my ego. But I choose whether I want to adopt a thinking and if I don't it ends there. I am not on a crusade to convince everyone of my point of view.

    And if I am with people who don't share my values I choose not to spend time with them.

    Great topic. Thanks
    • Dec 21 2011: I have one caveat/question: when others can't see that disagreeing IS disapproval & non-acceptance, what then? I mean obviously, you accept that that's the case, but what happens to the relationship/argument? Many people believe that they can still be intimate under those circumstances, even though by definition, their intent and actions are harm-full.
      I think I see other people just allowing others to be "right" in the belief that they *are* intimate, while in reality they are not. What do you think/do? Especially when, under those circumstances, some continue to violate the resulting boundary? I think behavioral & developmental psychology practices have to come into order, meaning penalties and reinforcement, etc., but how does that fit in with the concept of compassion? I guess it comes down to "parenting" in the relationship (and buddhism would approve, I think), but it makes me feel like I think less of people i have to deal with that way and I know I am more taxed by that than "should" be necessary in what I would think of as a loving or reciprocal relationship. As a result, I resent the dynamic and have to remind myself to think of them as children-- it's a cycle--ugh! But others seem to *say* that that is natural and and okay way to live!! gulp!! the terror of my life is the prospect of spending it in relationships like that.
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    Dec 21 2011: I really enjoy thinking about a world where everyone is humble and appreciate of the Earth and Humanity.

    I could be wrong though, but that is ok.
  • Dec 19 2011: As to my experience the most vulnerable insecure people are those who think they are right, they do know .
    They are driven insatiably to 'prove their point' and even more they are driven to expand their point.
    Why ? I guess because EGO is forever insecure, as all fabrications it strives to be real, big, powerful, famous..it needs to be right!
    Maybe uncertainty is the only certainty we should have to stay in peace, to stay open.

    Thanks, Valerie for bringing this conversation on TED.
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    Dec 19 2011: In my experience, I have learned this; My need or desire to construct a false personification of myself to others, or to myself, alone. Ultimately, we cherish this false perception of who we are and what we know, more than we cherish our relationship with others. We are willing to humiliate and prove others wrong in order to bolster the weak perception we have of ourselves. It is a deep aggression, you could even call it anger, or self-righteous indignation. It is not healthy, it is not becoming, and it sure is not natural. It comes from a lack of self confidence, self esteem...self love. Aggressive action is always preceded by fear. Think about it.Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is only my humble opinion. If these words find a home within your heart accept them and think on them, contemplate the good and caring words that seek a receptive soul. If these words found no warm welcome within you, then ignore them and move along, obviously they are not meant for you. Believe me, though, I have not come to argue, but welcome all objective debate. I want healthy relationships and good company. I grew tired of sitting alone with the trophy of the 'bragger's rights'. And those that enjoy sitting alone with their rewards were not the companions I had been seeking. I would rather be happy. this is a good question, Valerie. Thanks
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    Dec 14 2011: Take a moment and think about a time that you were absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that your position was right. Most commonly you can expect this to be about a political or religious ideal that you have extreme conviction about.

    The key word here, I believe, is conviction. When we are absolutely convinced as to our convictions it becomes terribly difficult to see the world as if we were looking through other people's eyes.

    Take a moment and think about a topic that you are extremely convinced about.

    Now spend a moment and actually consider that the other side may truly be right about this. ACTUALLY consider this and why their position may be correct, but without adapting their conviction.

    This is an uncomfortable place to be in at first, in this position of uncertainty, however it is a position of cultivating empathy and compassion.

    By releasing our strong sense of conviction in this manner we can become comfortable with our uncertainty.

    And we can become more capable of truly seeing the world with compassion, through the eyes of others.
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      Dec 14 2011: I guess the reason I asked this question in part because of the terrible growing division between political parties which divides us as a nation/species. It has become a venue for spreading fear and loathing. All I can say is in my 55 years of life I have seen 10 presidents in office. I have known many, many people who were of every voting status, religion, race and gender, and in every group the folks were for the most part, kind,caring and Intelligent. And the fact that I have survived comfortably all my 55 years, I have to believe that every president and party will bring good and not so good to our country. It comes down to how each of us views our own existence I suppose. We can choose to change what we can, and bless and let go of that which we cannot, and in a life of uncertainty we can only live in the moment, appreciate who & what we have right now because any moment could be our last.
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        Dec 14 2011: "We can choose to change what we can, and bless and let go of that which we cannot, and in a life of uncertainty we can only live in the moment, appreciate who & what we have right now because any moment could be our last."

        Very well said. I liked reading your thoughts on this.

        I was reminded of one of my favorite quotations -

        “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
        ― Mahatma Gandhi
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    Jan 8 2012: Good question. Got me thinking about how I interact with friends, work colleagues and family.

    Suggest males are more likely to push their view, fix a problem, fix perceived ignorance. Knowledge, knowing, being right seems to be related to social pecking order. Females seem to be less combative in general. Maybe some nurture drivers but probably a lot of nature.

    Ever notice a conversation between a bunch of men talking about, sports, politics or whatever. Contradicting each other, pointing out fallacies, expressing contrary opinions etc.

    I'll scan through the comments for an informed evolutionary/social perspective.

    Agree with themes that the search for truth and knowledge can be aided by debate, but we/I sometimes go too far.
  • Dec 31 2011: Hello Valerie. A great topic for discussion here. A few commentators here apparently feel a need to be right. Many others seem like great models of tolerance!

    Learning involves listening. So IF we desire to learn we must listen to the "inner" of a person and that often means self restraint, which also could include hesitating before jumping onto the computer keys. A friend once waited three weeks before answering a question. That taught me a great lesson; to think before speaking.

    I agree with many of the superb responses to your great question and resulting conversations.

    I would add one more aspect that means a great deal to me: I like the narrative of Jesus' life found in Part IV of The Urantia Book (Urantia Foundation. www.urantia.org) The modeling he gave us for the question you bring is worthy of consideration for all relationship aspects of life including family, work, communities, nations, religious, political, education----everythiing. The one most prominent feature of his personality, for me, is graciousness.

    What I learned of graciousness is it comes from a love saturated soul within. We learn grace, but graciousness stems from love. With all the love capability I can offer from self at this moment, I recommend an honest study of his life from this resource. I do belief that this study would marvelously address your question.

    His graciousness was due to many realities, one of which is personal will. If we are indeed sovereign over our individual will (he knew), then we can see one reason why Jesus was gracious in allowing people to see the better way in relating to one another. Likely there are other many very good reasons for being gracious, some of which emerged from this conversation.

    He also knew of the guiding Spirit fragment of God within persons. Hence, will and listen became important for him and now us.

    You are so kind to give us all this opportunity to think about this question.

    Happy New Year!
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      Jan 6 2012: The love Jesus possed in him that guided him, is in all of us as well. some are just unable to see it. Not a knock on Jesus, just a simple truth he would agree with. Peace.
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    Dec 27 2011: Being "right" is often an integral part of a belief system, which is taught to people when they are young by others who have the same or similar beliefs. These beliefs then become core values, which, when violated, threaten a persons understanding of the world. I'm wondering if the need to be "right" is the same as defending one's belief system. There are many behaviors that people engage in thoughtlessly. A lot of people are unconscious in their daily lives. I posit the inverse of your question by asking if we are truly capable of understanding or forgiveness? If we are truly capable of understanding another's beliefs but find it unnecessary to change those beliefs, or if we are truly capable of forgiveness, then the need to be right no longer controls our motivation.
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      Jan 6 2012: Great key point in Jennifer's comment:
      We all have belief systems that serve us or ...don't. Whether they do or do not, they are part of our cellualr structure. Nurturing those fundamentals: forgiveness, empathy, love, understanding... this takes time, effort and work.
      being able to forgive-each other and ourselves
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    Dec 27 2011: Education system...hmmm...very good Don.
    Your right, no they are not the product of an educational system, because if it were, I would be sorely disappointed and I would have views similar to yours, whatever they are.
    I can see an average man's reaction to my comments above. I understand the vagueness and quite frankly, frightening nature of the comment. Please Don, don't be surprised by the comment's language which I admit is very vague. What I was trying to convey was that even a murderer has a goal in life you know, and to reach that goal he will do anything. I was trying to eliminate this idea of right and wrong, of good and evil, of light and dark. This may seem overtly spiritual but in the end it has to be. I was trying to explain the example - a very bad example it seems considering your reply - I was using to say that there is no such concept of right and wrong, it is only the result of a society.
    As to what your beliefs are, I don't know and frankly don't want to know.
    But still, thank you for updating me on the vagueness of my comment.
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    Dec 26 2011: The more I treat others with appreciation the better.

    For example, I asked my yoga class, with members having diverse ethnicities, to accept that I was expressing mutual joy and goodwill even though I would use phrases uncharacteristic to some cultures as I sang, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Surprisingly, the only objection I received was from a Christian, who asked, “Just what in that song is uncharacteristic to my culture?”
    I responded, “The phrase, ‘let your heart be light,’ meant let your heart be an illumination.”
    My response mimics the yoga instructor’s statement ending each practice: My light bows to your light.

    Appreciation varies with the extent of sharing. When the other party expresses a preference I reject, I empathetically express opposition. For example, a very close friend said he must reprimand his adult, married son for not following his culture, I remarked that his son must mature in a time my friend and I cannot imagine. He must respect his son’s culture. I then asked him to read Kahlil Gibran, “On Children.” See online at http://www.katsandogz.com/onchildren.html .My friend said he treasured that poetry and thanked me for reminding him of his commitment to simply love his son and daughter-in-law. I was able to have this conversation because I appreciate my friend.

    When a friend points out how universally applicable his tradition is, I point to a new way to look at it and reiterate my faith in the truth much of which is unknown. For example, just today, a friend said that for Christians, history began some 2000 to 4000 years ago, but for his culture it began almost 10,000 years ago. I pointed out that tools from some 1.8 million years ago have been discovered, and the people who made those tools probably communicated from generation to generation. We happily agreed there is more to it than we know.

    It takes appreciation to converse on the other party's subject.
    • Dec 27 2011: Phillip, let me share with you my theory of what our roles are in this world. Maybe, it could afford a new perspective on the question of being right.

      If you watch National Geographic, you may have come across an episode where there are these birds who live on cliffs and build nests there. Everyday, these birds will go fishing in the sea beneath and carry the fish to their nest to feed their chicks. However, not all these birds will be successful in completing this task, because there is another species of bird living within the space which will rob the fish off some of these birds. So, if we were to moralized this scene the way religious believers do, we will say that the naughty birds which robbed the poor birds and deprived the latter's chicks from being fed are sinful birds ..so by normal religious rules, these sinful birds will need to destined to go to Hell. But some would argue that non-human beings are just resources for the human kind and that the human kind is superior etc etc because they can control the environment. But if you look at it rationally, we are just one of the species in this world, no different from birds, tigers, ants etc etc, just that we play a different role. What this role is in the jigsaw puzzle I don't know.

      My second point is, just like birds, the human kind have also "robbers" who are out there "terrorrising" the other human beings. For me , I would not label them as sinners, because they are part of the ecosystem and plays a role in ensuring the ecosystem is sustained.

      So back to the question of what is right? Is the act of robbing right or wrong? Wrong if you are the victim, right for the robbers, because they need to either feed themselves or feed their family,...

      Having said, this I will still try to ensure I am not a victim, just like I won't be the first gazelle to be at the edge of the pond that is infested with crocodiles.
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        Dec 27 2011: kwang,
        I am reminded of my 37 year old daughter, when she left her job on one morning last week because her boss would not stop badgering her for being late to work that morning. She left with a migraine headache and called for advice about whether to go back for her personal items she left under the circumstance. I advised her to get rest and relief from the headache and let the items go until the next day.

        I went on to write an essay about conduct in that crocodile pond. I feel she is naturally kind, empathetic, and focused. Nevertheless, she must survive the crocodiles, so next day, recognize that she is entering a swarm of crocodiles but when she departs at the end of the day the crocks will marvel at her kindness, empathy, and focus.

        She's home on holiday until the New Year and lots of fun and has not mentioned the work incident.

        Each human is on a path with the potential to improve from the contradictions they were born into and rise to their natural goodness. We can appreciate each person for contending with their path and sharing with us a description of where they are at this moment in time. If it is a person who has been brainwashed to martyrdom but is questioning it, we can assure them that they are too precious for sacrifice and help them escape their school.

        Birds of prey do not have the ability to help each other in the same way humans can.

        I hope your environment offers you some relief from the sense that everything is about survival. For this reason, I also continually advise my daughter to seek a new job.
  • Dec 26 2011: Valerie, I believe your question will never have the RIGHT answer mainly because "Right" and "Happy" are abstract and relative; because it is impossible to clearly define what constitute "Right" and "Happy" there will always be disagreements. For example, you hinted that one has gone overboard to be right, may I ask how does one know when one has gone overboard? How do you measure? Isn't the conclusion of overboard that of one party? If you ask the other party it would have said that it has not gone overboard. Finally, definitions of Right and Happy are dynamic and changes with time, what makes one "happy" or "right" now may not be in the future, even to the SAME person !!