Being Right Is a Dead-end Road

As a point of reference, a vantage point from which to see, I have myself.  I cannot see Wards Road unless I am on Wards Road (and still I only see the part where I sit and from the direction I am looking).  The same is true psychologically, spiritually, relationally, and in every other way that I am conscious to the world.  I am the default center of my universe.  I certainly can gain perspective from others, but the more different their view from mine, the more difficult it is for me to truly understand them clearly and acknowledge the validity of their views, so that (as a second-level default) I tend to hear and agree with those who are closer to my perspective.  When I connect with others in my group, instead of my viewpoint being stretched, it becomes more certain and inflexible and gives me less reason to hear sympathetically the viewpoint of those who disagree with me.

The problem is not simply that I disagree with others, but that I fail to even understand them because I cannot see things from their perspective.  I see the accident on Wards Rd from the backside and they from the front, and though we are looking at the same crash, we see a very different scene.  It is true that either of us could be misunderstanding what we see (confusing onlookers with victims or blaming the wrong driver), and when our views are very different, we suspect the other of simply being wrong, of misunderstanding the situation, but we are actually each factoring in completely different elements of the scene based on our vantage point.

I tend to assume that I see and know everything that they do, and so I can dismiss their view, but until I am deeply and sympathetically invested in seeing things from their perspective, I am choking off the truth, even if they are totally mistaken (a rare situation indeed), because an important part of the truth is knowing how and why they see things as they do (including how they see me).  And I want to know this not so as to refute them more precisely, but so that I can know them and love them as they are… well I want this to be my goal even though it’s often not.  I also want to gain insight into myself and a fuller perspective of the whole.

Let me confess it openly: so many times in a discussion my primary goal is to get my view across, to convince the other person of my take on the issue.  I’m all on send so that even my listening is less receptive than tactical maneuvering, looking for weaknesses to exploit.  And from such a position, I can learn from no one.  I recognize this tendency and work hard against it because I know it harms me as well as my relationships.  I try to understand sympathetically from another’s perspective, I try to understand how they hear my words, I try to understand myself more with this new information, because in the end, being a better person is more important to me than being more accurate, and being a friend is more important than being a fixer.

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