Twelve-weeks pregnant, I stood there with my mouth agape. What my brother-in-law said had knocked me over.
I was caught up in the throes of telling an obviously entertaining and compelling story – definitely snarky, probably complaining, certainly judgy.
Mike had been polite, engaged & listening with a smile on his face.
I ended my story, expecting mutual exasperation. Or chummy horror. Or at the very least, clear & lusty acknowledgement of how I had been undeniably WRONGED, for God’s sake!
But when I ended, he shrugged and said – not unkindly – “Well. You can either be right or be happy.”
“Yeah – you can be right. Or you can be happy.”
But…but…BUT BEING RIGHT MAKES ME HAPPY!
Oh my god.
Being right makes me happy.
Do you understand the implications of this?
Because I most certainly did not for a few days.
But I couldn’t get it out of my head. Being right makes me happy.
What did this mean?!?
- It meant I constantly worked hard to prove other people wrong – and me right.
- It meant that I spent a lot of energy having conversations not worth having.
- It meant that I was judgmental.
- It meant that I was self-righteous.
Finding out something this big about yourself is hard on the ol’ ego.
I wanted to pretend for a little while that this new self-knowledge wouldn’t change anything, but there was something about the way Mike had said it.
“Well. You can be right or you can be happy.”
Obviously, the implication is that you cannot be both.
I needed to explore this as a potential new way to be in the world.
Is it possible to be happy without the other person knowing I was right? Or, without – OH MY GOD – actually being right? OH MY GOD is being right just a perspective in our minds?
Life very quickly provided lots of opportunities to practice.
- The student’s mom who told me that I hadn’t give her son enough time to write the paper, so that’s why he’d plagiarized it.
- The family member who insisted that as a pregnant person, I should no longer do yoga.
- The car salesman who pitched us on a too-big car because “we’d surely need the room now.”
Each time, I’d practice letting the comment just hang there, not arguing or disproving it. Just letting it live in the moment without rebuttal or commentary.
Ohhhhh, it was so hard: I wanted those people to know how misinformed they were.
How absurd & ridiculous they were. How WRONG they were.
I played around, sometimes “fighting my case” again to see what transpired.
What transpired? Exactly NOTHING.
No one changed her mind. No one was blown away by my logic.
Not one person said, “Oh! Jen! I’m so glad you took your time, energy, and intellect to share with me your insights, arguments, and evidence. That makes all the difference. I now understand how rude/snarky/wrong/unrealistic I have been.
“THANK YOU, Jen. Thank you.”
I played around with saving my energy, merely stating my perspective, or redirecting the conversation.
Not being “right” was life-changing.
I started judging people less. Enjoying them more.
Often chuckling to myself and saving a bunch of perfectly good exasperation I used to waste.
And I felt…free.
Dammit, I felt HAPPY.
It was hard because – hello! I was mired in my pattern of self-righteousness.
But my husband will tell you I became much easier to live with.
And my friendships elevated.
And being around students, family, and colleagues was much more pleasant and easy.
Pleasant. And easy.
Could you use some pleasant and easy in your life?
Hell yeah. Me too.
This week, check yourself out. See if you can dip a toe and give yourself the gift of being happy vs. being right.
And if you’ve got the nerve to put yourself out there, I’d love to hear about your wins – both major and minor!