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Tiny Wisdom: The Urge to Make Other People Wrong

“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

Recently, a blogger I admire wrote a long note on a social media site identifying blogging practices he finds annoying—and referring to bloggers who utilize them as “fundamentally wrong.” Some of them are things I also choose not to do, but not all of them.

As I read through his list of “blogging mistakes,” recognizing some of them here, I found myself getting defensive. I thought it was wrong of him to call other bloggers fundamentally wrong, implying everything he chooses to do is right, and then I realized the irony.

I was making him wrong for making me wrong. How was I any different?

I shared this story with a friend of mine, and she told me that sometimes, it is black and white. She said we sometimes need to identify other people as wrong, because this is how we learn what we believe to be right—which is a precursor to acting on it.

What I realized amid all of this is that there is a difference between identifying something as right, and identifying it as right for you. And most often, what matters is that we do the latter.

When you believe something is right, you may be tempted to tell other people what they should and shouldn’t do. When you believe something is right for you, you honor that belief, but accept what other people choose to do without feeling the need to negate it.

When you believe something is right, you may be tempted to judge other people if they don’t support your belief. When you believe something is right for you, you realize it isn’t a threat when someone else thinks differently.

When you believe something is right, you may be tempted to fight for it. When you believe something is right for you, you feel at peace whether someone else agrees with you or not.

And now again, a little irony: clearly I believe it’s right to understand that what’s right for you might not be right for everyone. This feels right for me because it helps me understand and accept people while taking care of my own needs.

What do you believe is right when it comes to identifying other people as wrong?

Photo by jumpinjimmyjava

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Sal

    Hi Lori,
    Thanks once again for a timely reminder. I often find myself feeling the need to be right. I try very hard to curb this behavior because I don’t like how I feel when this happens. I know deep down that I have to allow others to be who they are, whether I agree with them or not. Sometimes this way of thinking shows up when I can’t just leave things alone. Others are struggling on their daily journeys, just as I am. If for no other reason than that, I can strive to let go and let them be who they are. There will always be people with more personal insight than myself, and some with less. Today’s message from you will help me to go into this day mindful to just be me, and to be as willing as possible not to mentally ‘nit-pick others.
    Sal

  • Laura

    Lori,
    Sometimes if you’re right – its as obvious as one size fits all. Major morals.
    Othertimes, if it feels right to you – it fits you, like your shoe size. We all have different sized souls . . .

  • This is an excellent topic and I’m so happy to read it today.

    I don’t feel the desire to convince anyone to come around to my way of thinking, or suggest what they are doing is right or wrong for them. The truth is not that I am above judging others- of course I have opinons and sometimes react negatively to the actions of others. 

    The real reason I choose not to give much engery to proving others wrong is because I achieve the life I want by honoring myself and my connection to the world around me from a viewpoint of peace and love. And any time I’m focusing on the behavior of others, be it positive or negative, I am not paying attention to my growth, my goals, and my needs.

    Any feelings of righteous satisfaction are superficial and short-lived, and this practice leads me away from my goals of living a great life. I have heard it asked, “would you rather be right, or be happy?” I choose to be happy. I don’t have to agree with you to accept you, and whatever choices someone else makes for their life very rarely threatens my choices and my happiness.

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder of my choice to live in harmony with those around me, and focus on what I appreciate in myself and others.

    Chrysta

  • I don’t think it’s right to identify other people as wrong.  Not only is it dualistic thinking, but it creates alienation and separateness. 

    I have read those posts that list fundamental blogging mistakes.  Like you, Lori, sometimes I choose consciously to make them and sometimes I don’t.  I’m not sure what makes another person an “authority” versus what makes me an authority about my own voice and style.  I hate reading those posts because it triggers anxiety and confusion in my mind about what I “should” be doing on my site.  My perfectionistic self wants to do the right thing! 

    The trick IS not to make someone else wrong for making me wrong.  I had to laugh.

  • Robert

    Lori,

    In a similar vein, we are all on our own journey to enlightenment and as part of that process we need to respect the individual paths we tread.
    In most cases it’s best to simply ‘get out of the way’ and allow others to have whatever experience they’re having in the knowledge it’s moving them closer.
    As soon as something is right it means something else has to be wrong.
    Like some of your other readers I’d rather be happy and leave right and wrong for others…… but that’s just me 🙂
    Rob

  • Joy Holland

    I understand what is being expressed…thank you for sharing!
    My view is a bit different. I believe that what I see in others is a reflection of something within me. If I feel defensive, it is not that someone *makes* me feel defensive but something allowed me to access a wounded spot.  I look within to process that. 
    So, I don’t think others are wrong.  I think there is love and there is fear..love is peace filled and fear is less than peace filled; when we operate from love we may consider a wide array of everything…when we operate from fear our ability to consider is limited.  For me, it is about how far am I willing to open my heart to embrace something that may be new and different and how deeply am I willing to understand and accept all pieces of me.. 

  • Hi Lori,

    There are some issues that right and wrong are degrees of legality, like in the cases that are presented before a judge.  These have certain guidelines that must be adhered to.  In other instances, I do not believe that anyone has the right to tell another person they are wrong.  Even in the instances when there is no doubt that a person is wrong, it is not for us to tell them they are wrong.  One can help the person to see their error and admit it to themselves, but telling them they are wrong will most likely not change their perspective.  Right and wrong can be broken down into three main concepts.  The intention, the effect that action will have on oneself and the effect the act will have on others.  As long as these three things are taken into consideration with each action, then one will not have to worry about being right or wrong.  With right intention, and right mindfulness, all actions will be giving, compassionate, and good.  I feel that we are only responsible for our own actions and not those of other people.  I also believe in the attempt to promote wisdom and combat ignorance one can take it upon themselves to help a person realize their error.  If after attempting to do so results in no change of the other person’s perspective then there is nothing further that one can do.     

  • What a great article and exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  • Just Saying, not changing.

    Interesting Idea.

    I noticing this as a pattern of my Atheist friends.  Hiding behind the dogmatic, self-inforcing garb of “skepticism”, “free thought” and “scientific thinking”, they fail to be capable of imagining that their beef with religion (dogma, ritual, blind belief) is at the core of a religion.  They fail to understand their belief of the world is “god”/”universe” centric, regardless of what their belief of what that is.

    What’s my point?

    I am a person of a visible spirtual pursuit.  Unfortunately, too many people get their education about the world from TV.  Their exposure to their childhood Judeo-CHristian interpretations of religion, deemed to be wrong, seems to require validation by how they approach any group even outside their spiritual exposure. I’m not sure where the free thought, and scientific thinking that everything isn’t the same has gone.

    On the need to be right, and something being right for you.  I believe mindful, discipline, of any form, benefits people.  When a person is financially, academically, professionally, physically, dietetically, emotionally disciplined, we say that person is successful.  But spiritually, not always.  Interesting stuff.

  • Africanqueen_18

    I find this most appropriate when reflecting about the issues facing the LGBT community! Because many may believe its wrong to be gay they set out to impose that belief on others. 

  • SwamiMike

    I liked this article.  At the same time I have trouble not identifying as wrong practitioners of things like female circumcision.

  • Thank you and you’re welcome! =)

  • I know what you mean. When we think of things like rape, genocide, etc, it’s hard to imagine there’s not a clear-cut right and wrong.

  • Beautifully written Chrysta! I love what you wrote about not having to agree with someone to accept them.

    I find that as a writer, I’m always trying to teeter the line between offering advice, and understanding my suggestions aren’t necessarily right for everyone-they’re just possible ways of being and acting. Clearly, one needs to have opinions to write on any topic, but there’s something liberating about admitting it’s never black and white–and that we can see things differently without either of us being wrong.

  • gansita

    Amen! 🙂 

  • I know what you mean Loran! I’m also a fan of identifying and doing the “right” thing–which is why it triggers me when I believe I’m doing the right thing for me, and someone claims I’m wrong!

    I think that when someone has a large platform, there’s an even greater responsibility to understand and explore the complexities of issues–as opposed to reducing things to black and white terms–because it’s human nature to attribute greater value to words that come from established authorities. This is something I believe is right because it gives people the freedom to follow their own instincts, instead of convincing them it’s smarter to go against them.

  • I’m with you Rob. I also feel that I don’t want to cause someone else the pain of telling them they’re wrong–because I personally don’t like it when someone does it to me! I feel good about myself when I’m diplomatic and open-minded. I think it’s a loving way to be.

  • You’re welcome! I have a similar process when it comes to my feelings. It’s like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “No one can make me feel inferior without my consent.”

  • Esther

    Humanism attempts to convey the idea that each person is able to determine what is right and what is wrong for themselves.  The reality is that some behavior is decidely right and some is decidely wrong.  Yes, many issues are not clear, but if right and wrong does not exist, society falls into anarchy and we have no basis for law.  We should be careful about condemning another’s behavior based on our OPINION but when we see wrong without commenting on it, we are tacitly agreeing with it.
     

  • You’re welcome Sal. I suspect we all struggle with this on some level. It’s tempting to identify ourselves with our thoughts and beliefs–and when other people don’t validate them, that can feel like a threat. I think if we’re aware and working on it, we’re doing a kind thing for humanity as a whole. =)

  • Yes I know what you mean!

  • That just breaks my heart–especially when you think of all the teen suicides that could have been prevented with kindness and understanding.

  • Celeste

    How do I identify other people as wrong? Well, are they causing some form of harm to others? If the answer is yes, they’re wrong. Some are obvious, like murder. Others are not immediately obvious. Homeopathy is wrong. Science denialism (climate change, evolution, stem-cell research, etc.) is wrong. Forcing religion into law by marginalizing LGBT people and people of other belief/non-belief systems is wrong. All of these cause harm. Also, if anyone thinks to themselves that their particular beliefs are harmless, they may want to do some research first to find out if that is actually true: http://whatstheharm.net/ 

    If what you do/think/say truly doesn’t cause harm to anyone, then it can either be right, or just right for you. 

  • On subjects such as blogging, I think there can be *qualified* rights and wrongs.  If your blogging goal is to attract a lot of followers, for example, and you put out blog posts with lots of ads, few pictures and little white space, and your text itself is full of typos and grammatical errors, then yes, you are doing it “wrong.”  However, maybe your goal isn’t a bazillion followers.  Maybe your goal is simply to vent ideas through blogging or to share your vacation stories with family and friends who don’t CARE that you’re dyslexic.  Or if your plan is to vacation in Fiji, and you are certain you can travel there via train – dude, you’re WRONG.  

    Somebody’s method might be perfect – for *their* goal, which might not be your goal or my goal, and that’s okay.  However, there are *some* (very few, IMO) moral rights and wrongs.  Physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children – no gray area there.

  • Red_girl_42

    I think you make a good point. I frequently get frustrated trying to convince other people that my point of view is “right” when I should spend more time listening to and respecting theirs. However, I do think there comes a time when we can, and should, label certain things as “wrong.” When people are forcing others to submit to their viewpoints, or deliberately causing suffering, then yes, we need to stand up and say “that is wrong” and stop them.

  • Jjag40

    Don’t you think sometimes people try to dominate others by doing that? I think it has more to do with respecting other peoples truth no matter what. Isn’t that also what some religions mean by loving your enemy, turn the other cheek….overcoming differences with others can only happen when someone chooses not to fight over what is true but let every truth exist.

  • Wethree3

    thank you so much for writing this and having this up today. I am ready to go into my yearly review in a few minutes and finishing up my break and saw this. I am going to go in with a different attitude.

  • coldv

    Thank you for this article. Great timing, too, since I have been pondering about this issue myself lately.

    I know a lot of techies and they’re always quick to point out why the device your using is inferior compared to theirs. I never said a word about their preference yet they are always quick to jump on the opportunity to tell me I’m wrong when the topic of phone comes up. I got annoyed at one of them then I couldn’t find peace afterwards because of the same reason: I was pointing out that he was wrong for telling me what is right.

    I feel I found peace after reading this article. Thank you again

  • Lutz

    I agree Lori that the “my way or the highway” approach is usually too rigid. I would say though that I would call acts like stealing, intentionally causing physical or mental pain and arson as wrong.

  • Hebiryu

    Hi lori. Nice article, it hapenned to me at one point in my life. But now i am just trying to watch and listen. Do not give label. Except if the damage is too much. Previously it was hard, now it become eaaier for me because i inderstand universe has somekind of balancing system. Some people call it sow and reap law, some call it karma law.

  • Otterspace2001

    Ya, good insight and “Irony” happens to be my favorite teacher.  Rumi agrees too; he wrote about looking forward to lying down together in that field where ideas of right and wrong do not exist. And that was over 600 years ago.well done-

  • Freddy

    Thank you, I have been carrying this thought lately. It is reassuring to see it discussed and I am glad to read your thoughts as well as those in the comments.

    For me being right or wrong often has to do with domination, feeling the intense need to be right closes off most possibilities to love and understand. I also have a big space in my life for advocacy and social justice, which sometimes leads me to make other people wrong for their beliefs, behavior and choices which can be destructive and hurtful.

    What i am learning In my journey, is that just to identify myself as as a gay human who wants the same legal protection and respect is an act of love. When i make others wrong for not giving me that, i am giving back exactly what they are giving me, which is fear and no love. When I came out as a gay man in a christian environment I took a lot of criticism and even hate. recently a family member asked why I always identify as a gay man, not just a person, and after reflecting, I realized it was important for me to let others know I am not afraid and show myself love and also show others who may identify similarly that they are not alone.

    Love has helps me grow bigger and understand and be strong and make my voice heard.

    I am struggling now to practice this in my daily life, checking myself at intersections when I feel like I am being dominated, choose another path. Also, I am struggling with understanding how to deal with violence, as is mentioned above several times in the comments. Thank you for the space!!

  • You bring up a great point. We need to have a mutually agreed upon definition of wrong as it pertains to the law. There are, however, many parts of the legal system/law I don’t agree with. I think there are certain things the majority would label as wrong, but with many others, things aren’t quite as black and white.

  • Hi Freddy,

    Your perspective on responding to fear without fear really inspires me. It’s heartbreaking that people can turn to violence to avoid accepting something they think is wrong. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with that type of cruelty. How wonderful that you own your sexual orientation to help others feel less alone and stronger in acknowledging theirs.

    I think what you wrote about dominance is spot on. There’s been one person in my life who has always been very controlling and dominating, and she is someone who (until recently, now that age has softened her a bit) would never admit wrong doing. When I feel myself getting righteous, I remember what it feels like to stand on the other side of it. And I recognize that I don’t want to put someone else there.

    Thank you for being part of the conversation. =)

    Lori

  • Wow what a fascinating site. Thank you for sharing the link here! I think that’s a solid definition for wrong, particularly as it pertains to the obvious cases of inflicting harm upon people physically or emotionally. There are, however, still grey areas, as one person could identify something as harm that another person would not. I think this is where it gets tricky. So much is open for interpretation.

  • You bring up some great points. Ironically, this blogger identified certain things as wrong for reaching certain specific goals, when some of those things have actually been right for me in meeting those very goals! I think ultimately, there are many different ways to accomplish the same things, and how we each go about it has a lot to do with our needs, beliefs, and intentions.

    For example, some might say it’s wrong to have ads on a site, and what’s right is selling eCourses and products because you’re creating and offering value to people, instead of pushing lots of products on them.

    That logic may make sense if you’re pushing countless ads without believing in the content you’re supporting. But if you believe the products you’re advertising provide value, and in introducing them to your readers, you’re also supporting other good people doing good things, then that’s a different story.

    At the end of the day, we’re all looking to make a difference in people’s lives and in doing so, support ourselves. I don’t personally believe anyone has the only detailed road map for doing it. If we all did things the exact same way, the blogosphere would be pretty one-dimensional!

    I do think that this blogger intends to be helpful, and while it’s not my personal style to call other people out as wrong (hence the lack of an actual name or link), I respect and support his right to make a difference in the way he deems best.

  • I’m not anti-ad – I believe that sometimes ads can be helpful for that very reason.  And when people are offering great, or even good content – why not make a little money?  I *have* visited blogs though, where people have posted on a comment thread “why doesn’t anyone follow me?” and the ads are SO prominent and overwhelming it’s hard to even *find* the text.  And when you do… the quality isn’t there.

  • Hi Kyle,

    Yes, I think it’s cut and dry with the law–though there are certain things the law considers wrong but I do not. I know what you mean about telling people they’re wrong. In most people, this inspires instinctive resistance. I love what you wrote at the end. It can be tempting to push people to admit they’re wrong, but ultimately it only creates conflict if two people truly don’t see eye to eye.

  • Creinhard

    Several years ago I sponsored a philosophy club at the large suburban high school where I taught.  One of the on-going questions we considered was tolerance.  How could we be tolerant of intolerant people?  Yet, if we were intolerant of them, didn’t that make us intolerant.  I have to admit we never came to a conclusion, partially because teens are just beginning to be able to see shades of grey.  
    My own belief:  I have chosen to presume good intentions of others and remember the meaning of namaste – the divine in me greets the divine in you.  Maybe I can learn something from you?

  • Alison

    So I’m wrong for being a Christian?
    What is the harm in me believing in creationism? What the hell do u care If I’d rather believe my loving God over, uh, you?
    Aside from my feelings being hurt by your judgements, I feel this whole comment missed the point of the article. You’re not saying you think those things are wrong to you, but that they are just wrong.

  • I love that! I think it really comes down to being the change we want to see in the world. If we respond to intolerance with intolerance, we’re feeding into a vicious cycle with no clear end. I love the term namaste, because it simultaneously reminds me there’s a light in me, and that same light’s in you.

  • I wrote a post a while back about being a hero. Dr. Phil Zombardo defines it as speaking up and doing something when we see injustice. So in that way, we need to be willing to identify something as wrong and realize we can do something about it. I would definitely agree that it’s just plain wrong when someone deliberately causes suffering!

  • Thank you! I almost used that quote, actually. I love that idea.

  • Intentionally doing something that causes someone else pain or hardship falls under the umbrella of wrong in my book as well!

  • You’re most welcome. I think this definitely comes up often in everyday life. It’s tempting to express your thoughts and opinions in a rigid way that leaves little room for disagreement. I generally prefer to be diplomatic so that I never imply someone else is wrong when it comes to opinions or beliefs, and I appreciate when people do that for me!

  • You’re most welcome!

  • You know, I thought I responded to your comment yesterday, but I don’t see my response now. If you see a comment from me twice, that’s why!

    I definitely think this can be a way to dominate other people. Someone in my life was very controlling when I was younger–and, well, dominating really is the best word. She would never admit wrong-doing about anything, and that was tough on me. When someone fails to acknowledge they’re wrong after they’ve done something inconsiderate or hurtful, it translates as disrespect. Especially when we’re young, we need to learn that we’re people who are worthy of respect.

  • Tinarose29

    @lori_deschene:disqus Oh WOW, just the other day a friend of mine told me she was pregnant, immediately in my head I was thinking ‘oh gosh I bet the baby daddy is another loser’…I know I was judging her. I don’t understand why she dates epic losers but I guess its what works for her. Not all of us have big dreams ( am I judging her again?)…by the way I was right her baby daddy is a loser…but I’m happy is she’s happy ( I think)….confused.com

  • coldv

    I agree. I try to be the different person. Another ‘superior’ techie tried to convert me just yesterday. I had a play with his device, he even told me what to think! I pointed out, without being condescending, what I like and don’t like about it. I expressed to him clearly that there are things that I genuinely love but the things that I don’t like (which we both agree on) is what concluded on my decision. Surprisingly, he accepted it and didn’t bother me about it again. I think pointing out that things are never black and white really helps dissolve that sort of endless arguments.

  • Bmkosik

    That is awesome! Sometimes we all need that reminder(me). Lol

  • Appans

    The need to think
    one is better than others is the nature of individual and collective ego. From
    elementary class, a child is encouraged to believe , that his own country is
    the best, is a part of this game. 
    Killing in war is glorious because the prevailing politics of your
    country approves it.

  • gwynneve

    there are several cliches that come to mind that are soo right (tee hee) about this.
    the course in miracles says ‘would you rather be right or have peace of mind’?
    then there is the one that says you become that which you oppose.
    being human i have to stop and think everytime i want to oppose something or someone or get judgemental when someone starts being very judgemental about someone else. i am getting better at realizing their behavior is a call for love-another course in miracles lesson.
    so i send them love and just move on to the next lesson.
    i love these articles. they teach me what i nead to learn or point out my progress in other areas.

  • I love what you wrote about sending love and moving onto the next lesson. I haven’t actually read A Course in Miracles, but I’ve read Gabrielle Bernstein’s books, and I love many of the ideas she’s shared about love, kindness, and forgiveness.

  • I’m glad this helped!  =)

  • Stephanie Y

    I also think it’s a gray line when it comes to identifying other people as wrong. I mean who are we to say which method is right which is wrong. Just because one have higher education, take more classes, have any other more advantages of life doesnt mean they’re better or right. When people try to justify what they do and condemn others that are different from them wrong, i think negative outcome is more likely to happen. I mean it’s only natural that most people get really defensive when they are being told “you are wrong, and I;m right”.I think we really should be careful when we’re about to say that sentence so it wont come out negatively, by explaining our point of view, why we think they way we think, and ask them to help us understand the way they think. Just because we feel differently doesnt mean one is wrong and the other is right, God created us uniquely afterall, no two human beings are created the same, even twins.
    Like Rumi, I’m also longing for the field out beyond the ideas of right and wrong doing.

  • Scottmc

    perfect for what i faced today

  • dfad

    “When a person is financially, academically, professionally, physically,
    dietetically, emotionally disciplined, we say that person is successful.
    But spiritually, not always. Interesting stuff.” ………..I agree. I have met many people like that where they talked BS /nonsense to the point where stuff got ridiculous

  • Stefanie Stevie Hinton

    “she told me that sometimes, it is black and white. She said we sometimes need to identify other people as wrong, because this is how we learn what we believe to be right—which is a precursor to acting on it” — What a thought! I never believe in black and white, I see it all in shades of gray. I never realized the value of is or isn’t. This may be related to my inability to see myself as a good person. I’m working on getting a thicker skin, this will help. Thanks.

  • You’re welcome, Stefanie. That was a challenge for me, as well, because of black and white thinking. I’m glad this was helpful to you. =)

  • Tipis

    Hey Lori– i was reading this piece hoping to find some answers to my current predicament… in case you get some free time- ( you must be getting millions if these queries) – thought i ‘d discuss it with you briefly. So i am a PhD student and having been studying a lot of social sciences related areas for many years, i have a “feminist” kinda sensitivity to things. Also from a very toung age- have been a bit rebellious and resistant to “patriarchal” ways( especially experienced in my country-India).

    Recently some of these ” sensitive areas/triggers” from my life have been getting in the way of my relationship with my husband. My husband is an extremely loving, caring and gentle person. He is quite liberal and fair in his views on equality for men and women. But after our wedding, now that we have started to live together- i get upset with him for not doing the house work as much.

    He works very hard , has a hectic schedule and under a lot of work pressure. Also like most men in India he was raised in a way which didnt really hone him to tend to any housework or even keeping his own clothes and things tidy.

    I get very petty and upset with him- and make a big deal about how how he is being unfair and how by not looking after his things- he is making me take on the role of a ” housewife”.

    I get all resentful from time to time- and although my husband feels bad and tries- he is just so not used to thinking about these things- that i keep chasing him and getting upset and there are lots of these perty fights.

    I am not sure how to think of these issues we are facing. On the one hand i wish he would change into someone who helps me with the housework. Because somewhere i feel that – i am being the victim of a patriarchal society and despite being highly educated my husband us ulmiately making us repeat the same traditional roles- of women doing the housework( and work too as a bonus) while men stay out of housechores.

    But sticking onto these views is not helpibg our relationship. Because i feel as though i am trying to change my husband – in ways that might not be possible. And is it really worth it for me to stick on to text book ideas of womens empowerment? Is it really empowering to hold onto these views so much ( despite my husband being supportive about many other important things) – or is this a superficial way of holding onto rigid ideas. It makes increasingly getting into a “right” and “woring” camp…