Updated: Jul 24
We should all be willing to change our minds. Too often in life, we encounter people who seemingly hold to their opinions even when presented with insurmountable evidence to the contrary. If we seek the truth, then this is not acceptable. We must not only be willing to change our mind, but actively admit when we realise that we were wrong or when a better idea is presented to us.
None of us are infallible and none of us sees so clearly that we can’t be mistaken. We all admit this freely, yet when was the last time that we admitted we were wrong? I had an argument the other day. My opponent refused to accept anything I said. To them, I was just plain wrong. They knew (or so they thought) why I’d acted in the way I had, what I had thought, what I had intended to say, and indeed, even what I’d heard them say.
As so often happens when there is a disagreement, we both had very different understandings of what occurred. I was trying to express to them that while what they had experienced was correct, what I had experienced was also correct. In short, that each of us only possesses part of the story and until we seek to understand the perspective of both people, we can’t resolve the argument.
Their view was that they only possessed the truth. In frustration, I asked why they even bothered to ask me what happened as clearly the only explanation they wanted was one that matched their preconceived conception of the events. I asked why, in their view, only I could mishear, misspeak, or misunderstand and yet they never did.
They assured me that they, of course, did make mistakes, so I asked for an example. They paused and couldn’t think of one. So, (calming down) I explained that in the last few weeks in our chats about politics and the news, I had conceded two points of logic to them. I reminded them that several times when we had discussed issues, once they had explained their position, I had been willing to change my position, conceding that their argument was sound. I asked them if they could remember doing the same.
They could not. I asked if perhaps they could remember changing their position with someone else. They said no, they could not. They said, “They are my opinions and opinions can’t be wrong”. I agreed that opinions are not generally held to be fact, but I offered that opinions should be able to be changed based on evidence or argument. When they agreed to this, I asked them to consider if they had never changed their opinions if this signified that they were always right.
I have recounted this argument not to run down my opponent but to illustrate the mental trap we can so easily fall into. We all accept that we err. Yet, many of us fail to recognise the moments when we do. We insist on the fault lying with others and we double down when we are wrong instead of just admitting where we failed. Over time, this becomes a habit, and we end up assuming that we are always right, that the fault is never our own, that we alone are excused from the human condition.
We maintain the living sainthood even while admitting that we make mistakes and can be wrong sometimes, but never this time. Yet most of the time, we are at least partly wrong. We might have misspoken; they might have misheard. We might have been talking about one thing and they another. We may have done something that we have done hundreds of times before and, this time, something went wrong. In each case, we are partly to blame and partly innocent. We should have the honour and honesty to admit this and to seek to learn from our mistakes.
When we debate ideas, we must not preach but discuss. You and I do not speak from divine revelation but from mortal reason. We can and will be wrong, mistaken, or confused. There is no shame in this, but only in failing to accept it when you are shown your mistake. Therefore, I ask you all to join me in reminding ourselves that we are fallible. That we will be wrong, mistaken, or confused, and that is not a bad thing. But let’s not stop there, and instead, look out for when we err and practice the virtue of honesty by admitting it.
Each day could be our last, so let’s not put off for another day the task of becoming better. Life is too short to waste it in misery and strife. Instead, let’s pursue the welfare of our families and communities through the development of wisdom and the virtues reaping the sweet fruits of peace and happiness as our reward.
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