Monday, February 28, 2011

Sometimes Right is Happy

Where did February go? In wrapping up our focus on Step 2 this month, deciding if you want to be right or happy, I posed some questions at the end of the last post about whether it is ever right to be right. Thank you for your excellent comments on that post and on many posts throughout the month.

Here are some final thoughts. It seems that when we explore this issue from different angles, there are two kinds of “right.”

There is the sense of right that is ego driven. This might manifest as self-righteousness, when we believe that our opinion is superior. Our egos might react to actual or perceived criticism with a defensive assertion of rightness. We might want to show off by correcting someone or displaying our knowledge about something. In many, if not all, of these situations, there is an underlying fear – fear of attack, fear of unworthiness, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure. The result is that we separate ourselves from others at the most basic level of our shared humanity. By insisting our our rightness, we cause the very isolation that we fear.

There is another sense of right that is driven by lack of ego. This manifests as integrity, honor, and courage. This is the rightness of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism, the rightness of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela. This is the rightness of the child who stands up to the bully on the playground, the homeless person who finds and returns a wallet full of money, a parent who admits a mistake to a child, a friend who honors a promise. In many, if not all, of these situations, there is an underlying peace, even joy. The result is that we connect ourselves to others at the most basic level of our shared humanity. By adhering to rightness, we cause the very union that we long for.

Perhaps George Washington was right (!) when he said, “Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”


PS–And really, y’all know that the toilet paper should roll over the top!


  1. "The result is that we connect ourselves to others at the most basic level of our shared humanity" and isn't that the ultimate of peace? Lovely post!

  2. I'm guilty of being a "corrector" When someone, during the course of a conversation, says something I believe to be wrong, I'm sorely tempted to correct them which I know will only turn the conversation into a debate and push the person away. It's a hard habit to break but we're all works in progress, right?

    And yes...the TP should roll over the to.

  3. The toilet paper is supposed to roll over the top!
    Isn't that a law or something? And if I'm visiting someone's home, and the paper is going the WRONG way, I change it! :)

  4. Hi Galen,

    As far as I can, whether I am right or not is not as important to me as getting the job done. To me, results matter and if I am wrong but I still achieve my goals, I am happy to be wrong. This is with regards to the rightness of egos. It is always important not to let our egos stand in the way of results.

    As for doing what is right, there is often no substitute for it. I generally dislike the labels right and wrong. This does not mean I can't tell the difference, but rather I find them unhelpful. Having said that, even from a pragmatic standpoint, it is always better to be right than wrong. Doing the right thing often leaves you free from reproach and attacks. But if we do the wrong thing, we leave ourselves wide open to problems in the future.

    Namaste! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  5. There is a huge difference between doing the right thing and needing to be right. I think that most of know what that difference is: it is as you say, letting our hearts guide the way, not the ego.

    My weigh in in the great toilet paper discussion: I prefer over the top, used to want to change others', but now am honestly just happy to have toilet paper to contribute to life.

    And I still go chasing rainbows -- they just look different sometimes!


  6. Hi Galen,
    This is such a facinating topic. We don't have to be victims of our egos. We can make great choices in spite of our insecurites and pettiness. Once we have a taste of true happiness and integrity, it becomes easier to make better choices. Thanks Galen!

  7. Hi Galen :-) Thanks for this "challenging" topic. I say challenging because I think I will always struggle with it just a bit. It's not that I need to always be right... [far from it] but there is still the need to stick up for myself when others assert their right to be right! I don't quite know what that is yet... but it's almost like the little kid in me that doesn't want to be bullied. Turning the other cheek has its limits I think... when it comes to others asserting their rightness over us. But yes. For the most part if we can know who we are... and not feel bullied or oppressed by other people's need to be right then there lies the key to pure joy. Letting go of the desire to be right... being sure of who we are... and loving every inch of ourselves for better or for worse gives a quiet confidence that no longer needs affirmation. Interesting isn't it?

    Thanks again for making me think about it...

  8. I can't believe its March already! Where is the time going?
    Who knew about the toilet paper roll? Now I need to go check all our rolls in the house. *grumble*

  9. Mitzi--Yes, it is the ultimate peace. Thank you.

    Kara--I know I am still a work in progress. What I've learned is that practice builds habits and it becomes easier. Not easy, but easier!

    Dianne--You're hilarious. I've never been that bold, although I've fantasized about it.

    Irving--I always appreciate your insightful comments. Namaste to you, my friend.

    Cathie--I like the way you distinguished needing to be right from doing the right thing. That is exactly what I was trying to say, but you said it so much more simply! Thank you!

    Dandy--Victims of our egos. Little tyrants, those egos. That is a powerful image. I agree that it does become easier when we see how much happier we are when we rein them in.

    Jean--It is hard sometimes, isn't it, to distinguish between being bullied, which might call for standing up, and an ego battle, which might call for walking away.

    Bernie--Really, I thought everyone knew about the toilet paper roll. I hope you have made any necessary corrections by now!

  10. Hi Galen, I think you're right on. The righteousness you speak of is one that is of a higher calling. It is the world of justice. It's what we seek to defend that reminds us of what is truly worth fighting for in the world. It is egoless and it is noble. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Bryan--I think you're right on, too! A higher calling, the world of justice, what is truly worth fighting for, egoless and noble. What wonderful words. Thank you so much for your comment.

    I was reminded of a line at the end of the movie The Wind and the Lion. Sean Connery says to his friend something about finding something or someone worth losing everything for. I'll have to look up the exact quote.

    (And please let me know when you have your "freeze" problem fixed. I have missed visiting your blog and will be back as soon as it works again!)


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