Right and wrong
Yes, it‘s a big subject. But this isn‘t intended as a piece on morality. When we interact with others, we judge them: if they think or do things differently from us (and of course they will; no two people are exactly alike), we work out whether that difference is acceptable to us. If it is, we probably don‘t think to ourselves, ‘‘They‘re right.‘‘ We just accept them. If the difference is too great, however, and not acceptable to us, we‘re quite likely to think, ‘‘That‘s wrong.‘‘ We tend to universalise our own values, expecting (subconsciously) that others should share them. In this way, we seek reassurance that we fit in - if everyone else thinks like me then I must be OK.
But what happens when someone close to you has a radically different outlook on a particular subject? You agree about pretty much everything else but on this one thing you just can‘t see eye to eye. It‘s tempting to say they‘re wrong and you‘re right, right? The reverse scenario - they‘re right and you‘re wrong - is a pretty uncomfortable position to be in, after all.
So, where do we go from here? Well, what if we were able to move away from the right-wrong axis and instead say, ‘‘This is true for me‘‘? We usually call this ‘agreeing to differ‘ which is broadly similar except that we‘ve removed the more judgemental right/wrong decision. It sounds perhaps like a really pernickety detail and maybe it is but, for it can be a liberation. We no longer have to check whether we‘re right or wrong. All we have to check is whether we‘re speaking or acting authentically. (This is based on the assumption that we‘re legally and ethically grounded, of course.) It means that we‘re freed up to be ourselves as we truly are and not forever trying to compromise in order to fit in. Paradoxically, it also seems to be the case that we‘re closer to others because of the ability to be authentic, even if that means we‘re expressing different views. To be seen and understood is, it seems, to be accepted.
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