An overpowering need to be right is born of perfectionism, pride and fear. Some people would risk a relationship, rather than admitting they were wrong, or that someone else’s point of view might be valid – at least for that person. Those of us who carry around that character defect – and the writer is most assuredly in recovery from know-it-all-ism – are often (or often have been) so unable to admit that there are two sides to most things that we have been willing even to alienate loved ones: We’d rather be right than loved.
Without getting into the pathology of overbearing parents who expected too much and all the other developmental nightmares, let’s just say that always having to impress our opinions and facts on others is pathological. It is self-righteousness in disguise, and stems from a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy that causes us to want to prove to ourselves that we’re one up on everyone else. (No one else cares!) “Standing up for our principles” is, in reality, simple mental and emotional inflexibility. There are always two points of view to any discussion, and I suspect that people who are unwilling to listen to others’ positions really don’t understand the issue well enough to have strong opinions about the accuracy of their beliefs. Because this shortcoming bears so directly on our low self-esteem, it’s hard to admit and harder to let go.
And that’s a shame, because it’s such a relief to let go…to learn where others are coming from and why, and to appreciate the ideas that we share, rather than emphasizing the differences. Keeping an open mind, hearing the “other side’s” rationale, accepting their right to hold opinions and the fact – OMG! – that whether we like it or not, there’s a good chance that many if not all of them are valid, to not insist on being right, brings us closer to others and expands the human spirits that we are reclaiming in our recovery.