I was listening to a talk about how to respect and tolerate others’ bad behavior, and the speaker said, “Other people’s wrongs are right. Our right is wrong.” When I heard that statement, I thought, How can that be? That doesn’t make any logical sense.
After I listened to his explanation, I realized I can’t just look at the surface-level meaning; I have to look deeper. The deeper meaning has taught me to be less judgmental and to be more careful of how to advise others to change.
Other People’s Wrongs are Right
Why is it that other people’s “wrongs” are right? Because they were never taught that what they’re doing is wrong.
For example, let’s say you were raised to care about punctuality. Your colleague was raised to be relaxed about punctuality. He’s late by 20 minutes. You’re annoyed at him, thinking, How can you be so late and not even know to apologize for being late? He really doesn’t know, and that’s why he didn’t apologize. So his “wrong” is actually “right”. If you were raised by his household and went through all of his life experiences, you’d think and act exactly the same way as him.
Our Right is Wrong
Why is it that our “right” is wrong? The meaning is here that we must not pressure our opinions onto others. By being overzealous of something that is “good”, we create opposition. In the face of opposition, people get defensive. When people get defensive, they become closed to new ideas. Since your goal is for them to accept a new idea, then your method, which created opposition, is wrong.
For example, let’s say a wife recently attended a talk and learned about the benefits of veganism: It’s great for health, great for the compassionate heart, and great for the Earth. She goes home and tells her husband, who loves eating meat, “Starting from today, I’m only going to cook vegan for the family. It’s great for your health, great for your compassionate heart, and great for the Earth. I’m doing this out of love, so don’t argue.” Sure, the wife might be “right” factually, but holistically speaking, the wife is wrong.
What is the wife’s goal? To improve the health of her husband and have a happier family life. What actually happens? She created opposition: Her husband will think, I want to eat meat. She refuses to support me. I have to find other ways to eat what I want to eat. Opposition creates disharmony, and disharmony is what we don’t want in a relationship.
What’s the result of the opposition and disharmony that she created? The husband will eat out more so that he can eat meat. That means he’ll be at home less and his relationship with her and the children will degrade. Over a long period of time, he might get high blood pressure because of the stress and the high fat content of the food he eats at restaurants. All these wrongs stemmed from an initial “right”.
How to be Holistically Right
What can she do instead so that her “right” is actually right? She needs to use an appropriate method to help her husband to change. The change must be gradual. Maybe this month, cook 25% vegan, then next month, 50% vegan, then the month after, 75% vegan.
She also needs to use a kind facial expression and a gentle tone of voice. She can tell her husband, “Your health is so important to me. When I see you healthy, I’m happy. I read a book/article on healthy diets, and [insert expert’s name here] said that veganism has many health benefits. You can check it out if you’re interested.” Regardless of whether or not the husband checks it out, he’ll know his wife has his best intentions in mind.
The wife also needs to learn how to cook vegan dishes to be just as good, if not better, than meat dishes. When her husband says, Wow this meal is delicious! What is it? Then she can say This is a vegan blah blah blah. The husband will think, Oh, I had no idea vegan dishes can taste so good. I guess they’re not so bad after all.
The wife can also introduce to her husband new friends who support veganism. She can take her husband to one of these classes and then eat a meal with these classmates. At the lunch table, the friends might comment, “This food is delicious and healthy and good for the environment. Don’t you just love vegan food?” Then the husband is there nodding along and thinking, Yeah, veganism is pretty good.
By doing her utmost to make the change comfortable and natural for her husband, her factually correct idea became holistically right.
Often times in relationships, we are focused on being factually right. When we pressure our ideas onto others, that creates opposition, and opposition is wrong because it goes against the goal of making the other party open to new ideas.
To be holistically right, we must do our utmost for them to naturally and comfortably see our point of view.
Do you have any experiences where your “right” was wrong?