That’s actually a difficult question and one that I struggled with for years and still do to some extent. In my youth, I would rather have been right. Now, I would rather be at peace, even though I fall back into my old habits sometimes.
The other day I was reading Andrew Bernstein’s fabulous book The Myth of Stress: Where Stress Really Comes From and How to Live a Happier and Healthier Life and I was reminded of this question. I highly recommend this book. It is very practical and I think unique.
Here is the relevant passage:
Do you prefer stress or happiness? That may sound like a no-brainer, so let me ask it another way. Do you prefer being right or being at peace? So many of us are determined to be right, and we defend our positions with the skill of a lawyer and the stubbornness of a mule. If you’re good at this you may get to continue to be right for years and everyone will know it, but the cost is your peace of mind.
Looking over your life today, can you see areas in which you fight to be right, even though it causes you stress? There’s a way out of this, but it requires making a choice first. So, do you prefer being right or being at peace? I know, you want to be right and be at peace but that is not an option. You can choose only one. Which will it be? Most people who experience stress remain at the bottom of the SPIRAL because of their determination to be right.
One thing to clarify here is that you may substitute “win” for “right”. Sometimes you can be right and be at peace if you don’t insist on winning.
When I was in my twenties I was a passionate political Libertarian. I was right damn it, and I wanted people to know it. I didn’t hesitate to debate politics. Every time the DemoPublicans in Washington passed a new law I stressed out ; I was convinced that the country was going straight to hell.
Finally, I decided to be at peace instead of being right. I very seldom debate politics and if my opinion is required it is usually just a simple statement of that opinion. I mostly ignore Washington. I don’t want to waste my life on that nonsense. I’ve learned to let it go. I decided that I would rather be at peace. In case you are curious, I haven’t changed my political opinions much in the last 25 years. I’m at peace with the fact other people think differently. They are entitled to their opinions and they have reasons for them. I have made that same decision many times over on a variety of topics.
Some people consider letting it go a betrayal of their integrity. I used to think that way too. But it’s not. It’s a matter of choosing your priorities. There is value in your peace of mind.
Whichever way you answer, it is an important question. I recommend that most of the time you choose peace. I’m fairly sure that when you are lying on your deathbed, having alienated people around you, you are not going to be grateful over all the arguments you won with your superior logic or the time you spent “winning”. It’s something to think about.
What do YOU think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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