I’ve often wished for a magic wand that I could wave to fix my relationships with others – especially after there has been a confrontation and we’re hanging on by our fingertips or just simple awkwardness because of something I said.
Twenty years ago, a woman named Lexi passed along something to me that her father had said to her. “It is more important to be loving than right.” It struck me like a lightning bolt! “It is more important to be loving than right.”
I immediately began to recall the many situations in my life where I felt the need to demonstrate to others that I was “right” (thereby leaving the other person “wrong”) on subjects ranging from baseball scores to scientific theories. Did proving myself “right” make me feel superior? Even if it did, what impact did it have on the other person? What affect did it have on my relationship with the other person, especially someone very close to me?
We all know the answers. It didn’t make the other person feel good about me and it adversely affected our relationship.
Out of ego, we find ourselves constantly driven to demonstrate that we are “right”. It happens to us every day and especially with those we are the closest – our spouses, our partners, our children, our parents, our siblings, our workplace colleagues and our best friends. And if we prove we are indeed “right”, we don’t actually feel better! We also realize that we have damaged our relationship with the other person which, in turn, is harmful to our own well being.
What if we were to act out of love and not out of ego? What if we always avoided the temptation to show we were “right”? Take it a step further, what if out of love we knew we were “right” but decided to let the other person feel they were correct? Would we not feel stronger instead of weaker? Wouldn’t the other person feel greater affection toward us? Wouldn’t our relationship be enhanced?
I have two very good friends, Jerry and Diane, who are one of the happiest couples I know. Jerry is a bit older than Diane. It seemed that every afternoon Jerry would toast a bagel and take it into their den to eat it. He would invariably leave crumbs from the bagel on their desk. It started to really bother Diane and she decided to lovingly confront Jerry about his habit of not cleaning up the crumbs. On her way into the den the thought struck her, “What if I no longer saw those crumbs?” “It might mean that Jerry was no longer with me.” She immediately turned that switch in her brain and, from that day onward, she looked forward to seeing the crumbs and they made her happy.
In a similar vein, we can turn the same switch and decide that being “right” is nowhere as important as being “loving.” If we are aware enough to do that as often as possible, we will actually feel stronger because we passed up the temptation to demonstrate we were “right”, and we will reap the many benefits of having strengthened and improved what is most significant to us – our relationship.