It’s not easy being wrong.
I mean, it’s hard on the ego and forces us to admit that we don’t know everything.
But I think it might be even harder when other people think we’re wrong.
What’s worse: being wrong about a certain issue and admitting it to yourself and others, or believing that you’re right about the issue and being misunderstood, ignored, belittled, or falsely accused anyway?
Both of those are a struggle in their own way; however, depending on the situation, the first one can be easier to get past. Despite the jab to your pride, once you honestly recognize that you’re at fault about something, you are then able to assess the issue with fresh eyes and properly address it, whatever that looks like. Sort of an “admit it, fix it, and forget it” type of thing.
The second one doesn’t always get resolved that cleanly.
You may feel in the deepest part of your heart that you are right about something, that you have made the best choice possible, that you could not take a different path without betraying yourself and/or God, but that doesn’t mean that everyone around you, including the ones closest to you, will feel the same way. In fact, if it is a weighty issue, it will probably be especially the people closest to you who will oppose you, though they may have the purest of intentions.
To clarify, in this post I’m specifically addressing when you feel strongly about a certain issue, whether it be political, spiritual, theological, scientific, philosophical, whatever–and you are attempting to bring an unwilling party over to your side of the fence.
It’s no bundle of fun, especially when the other party is a close friend or family member and they think they are doing their part to rescue your soul from irreparable damage and harm. They just want the best for you, and it can be painful when you don’t want to hurt them or further alienate yourself from them, but your desire to be true to yourself forces you to defend your position and effectively reinforce their bad opinion of you.
And of course, if this person cares enough about you to try to correct your erroneous beliefs, chances are that you feel the same way about them, the same need to enlighten them to the truth.
And thus enters The Impasse.
Regardless of your relational proximity to the opposing party, it’s tough trying to convince someone of something when they just aren’t having it.
You might think, If I can just get them to see this thing from my perspective, it’ll all click in their mind and they will see the truth in one big lightbulb moment.
It sounds so simple in theory–get them to have that epiphany and they’ll leap over the line in the sand so willingly they won’t have a clue why it was so hard in the first place.
Yes, that would be nice indeed, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are close to nil. I’ve been in enough of those desperate debates to know that painfully well.
The problem is, you are not the only one in the argument thinking that. The other person has it out for your conversion just as much as you do for them.
You are stubbornly and unequivocally convinced in your mind that you are in the right. But then, so is the other person.
So…why is a conflict like this so insurmountable? Why is it so hard to change someone’s mind?
Well, maybe it’s because sometimes, given the gravity of a situation or issue, you’re not only trying to change someone’s mind and opinion on something, but you’re also threatening to shake up their identity.
Sometimes a person’s inner beliefs are all they have; they are the core principles and values that make up who that person is. And it’s not a simple task to just rearrange someone’s mental constructs when the foundations go deep enough.
(Some of what follows is paraphrased from my post Legalism vs. Love: The Heart of the Matter since it accurately conveys what I’m trying to say here.)
Think about it from the other perspective.
We will vehemently reject the notion that we might be mentally or spiritually imprisoned because it offends our rationality and self-perception. We naturally want to believe that we are as enlightened and well-informed as possible, that our common sense and convictions have been based on the highest plane of truth. To have that self-assurance threatened is a jab at the deepest part of our identity and we instinctively react in the “fight or flight” defense.
There is a reason why, try as you might, it’s almost impossible to sway someone to your point of view in a few minutes or through one book, one video or one heated debate.
The journey of complete personal development often takes place over an extended period of time, usually years. Yes, sometimes we experience sudden epiphanies that radially shift our perspectives, but normally the process is gradual. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Think back on your life and your own path of growth and development. How different of a person were you at 18 than you were at 25? Or 30?
If you’re anything like me, you might not even be able to recognize the person you used to be.
But also, if you’re anything like me, that personal growth didn’t happen quickly.
It took me years to see the faults in my personal ideology. I mean, granted, some of that process was the typical self-discovery of a teenager growing up and “finding herself,” if you want to call it that. But much of it was a parallel journey of discovering, reading, reassessing, studying, experiencing, and basically living.
I didn’t suddenly find my way because some determined person convinced me in one fell swoop with a well-executed argument or an earth-shattering YouTube video. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that most rational human beings with an ounce of true conviction on any given topic won’t budge that quickly either.
Even after doing your best to make them see it from your point of view, it’s not that simple.
They may mentally understand the basis of your argument, but they can’t see where you’ve been and what you’ve gone through to get to where you are now. From their perspective, you’re either a well-meaning but misguided friend/do-gooder, or a self-absorbed fanatic insulting their intelligence. They don’t have the added benefit of your particular perspective; they haven’t had the time to live your journey.
It takes time for the human heart or mind to be swayed and moved, and each individual heart and mind must go through its own individual metamorphosis. It’s not a process that can be rushed. And that’s okay.
So then, what are we supposed to do in the meantime when we desperately want to change someone’s mind on something we deem to be absolutely critical and of paramount importance?
The first of my attempted sage advice would be to have patience. Okay, patience is often torturous, I know. Like waiting a year for the next book or movie in a series to be released. But in reality, it’s an unavoidable part of life. And it’s certainly necessary in this case.
Have patience. Wait and observe and just be there for them no matter what. Lend a non-judgmental ear to them and try simply listening instead of immediately making a contentious comeback.
Trust that they are making the best choices that they can with the information that they currently have. Aren’t we all?
Don’t think that you have arrived at the point of ultimate enlightenment either. A mature mind is always learning new things, constantly adding new information to its personal knowledge database and adjusting its personal philosophy accordingly.
Don’t be absolutely black-and-white on everything. Be open-minded to other opinions and perspectives, without feeling the pressure to accept them or conform to them whole-heartedly. Be willing to pick out the bones in order to find the value in the rest.
I like this quote by Aristotle that states it aptly:
“It is the mark of an educated mind
to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
And that’s something I believe healthy relationships can live and thrive on.
Remember that your relationship with the other person is more important than agreeing on everything. And you’re never going to agree fully with anyone, so don’t waste time trying to get there. Accept where you are, appreciate what you do have in common with them, and don’t let your differences become an unyielding wedge that pushes you apart irreconcilably.
Doesn’t mean you should forget about your mission to convert them to your way of thinking; just don’t make it a problematic issue between you. Recognize your points of connection and use them to their greatest advantages in strengthening and growing your relationship.
And that’s the end of my sage advice for today. Thanks so much for reading!
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