“Would you rather be right or free?” ~Byron Katie
Several months back, I saw a live taping of Oprah’s Life Class, which she hosted with Iyanla Vanzant, author of Peace from Broken Pieces and other self-help books.
At one point during the episode, Iyanla discussed an exchange she’d had the week prior with a viewer who’d Skyped in. The young woman had called her family crazy, referencing Iyanla’s oft-quoted advice, “If you see crazy coming, cross the street.”
But in this instance, Iyanla had scolded the woman for disrespecting her parents, regardless of how dysfunctional they may have been, because, according to Iyanla, that woman’s “soul chose them before she was even born.”
Although I'd felt inspired up until then, I remember this moment creating a deep disconnect for me, because I don't share that spiritual belief. And I think respect has to be earned—even by a parent.
Suddenly, instead of focusing on the many helpful insights that emerged throughout the night, I found myself clinging to my disagreement. Even though it served no useful purpose, I kept mentally rehashing all the reasons I felt Iyanla was wrong.
Right then it occurred to me that I was doing wrong to myself. I was shutting myself down from the present moment because I felt justified in being righteous.
So I stopped and asked myself, “What might the lesson be here?” After all, I was part of a life class.
I realized it was this: If we label someone's belief as wrong and cling to that, we limit our ability to learn, from them and the moment.
I’ve read and grown through some of Iyanla’s books, and even if we have different understandings of spirituality, I know her intention is to help people. That’s why most of us share our beliefs: we think they will provide others with the same comfort they bring to us.
Obviously, we shouldn’t turn our heads if someone is causing harm. But we can choose not to cause ourselves harm by speaking our minds when it's appropriate, and otherwise letting it go. Oftentimes, what we really want isn't to be right; it's to feel a sense of peace. We can give that to ourselves.
Of course, that’s just what I believe: that the best way to provide ourselves with comfort is to recognize when to let go.