We are hardwired to be righteous — do good things, help others, say sorry, respect elders, follow the rules, forgive, and so on.
But even though being right is the thing, some people do wrong things — unconsciously or consciously. They break the rules. They don’t follow social norms. They shout at others. They don’t show respect. What else?
Sorry, but we don’t have control over that.
And since we’re programmed to do the right, we get annoyed when we see someone doing the opposite. We judge them, believing they’re not good people. That they’re not adhering to the law. That they’re wasting their lives.
What’s weird is we feel proud that we’re doing the right things. It boosts our ego, believing we’re on the brighter side while some people are not.
The problem? It creates chaos.
- People fighting because of political views.
- Religious people debating.
- Parents judging their adult children for not following social norms.
- Educated people undervaluing uneducated folks.
- A customer rebuking a restaurant staff because of the bad service.
All of these tell a story about which one is better — one is right, the other is wrong.
But what if… just for a moment, develop a little self-awareness and switch perspectives? Think about it. Did you even consider the reasons why they’re doing those things? Are you sure they are dumb people? Did you empathize?
Have you forgotten they, too, are humans?
Just because they did things you dislike doesn’t mean they’re bad or stupid. Consider their reasons. Maybe they did it because of curiosity, or temptation, or fear, whatever.
The point is to develop self-awareness every time we condemn our fellowmen or blame them for not making the right decision. Or, every time we’re pissed off they’re not following the law or not doing their part in society.
Because no matter how righteous we think we are, most of the time, it’s just an illusion.
Nobody’s perfect. We can only achieve harmony when we seek understanding rather than proving others wrong.
Understand why they did it. Understand what makes them admire that political candidate. Understand what makes them latch onto such belief.
As the renowned interestingness hunter-gatherer Maria Popova penned, “It’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.”
Author Paul Jun amplified the insight by saying,
“Understanding our fellow humans and how they make decisions is some of the hardest work that we do, and it’s the easiest to avoid; even harder is empathizing with them. Understanding grows into empathy, and empathy rooted in understanding can grow into compassion.”
Here’s an exercise: Every time you want to rebuke others for doing things you think are wrong, ask yourself first: “Will it help the situation? Will it provide a solution? Will it result in peace? Or, I’m just unleashing my anger?”
If you only want to say something because you think you’re right and you want to prove others wrong, think again. Perhaps that’s the best time to practice self-awareness and switch perspectives.